Monday, May 17, 2010

Heavy Metal Singer Ronnie James Dio Passes On

Ronnie James Dio, the heavy metal singer who performed with Elf, Rainbow, and Heaven and Hell, passed yesterday at the age of 67. The cause was stomach cancer.

Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on July 10, 1942. When he was very young his family moved to Cortland, New York. He graduated from Cortland City School in 1960. While still a boy he played trumpet. In high school he played bass guitar in a band called The Vegas Kings. He eventually became lead singer of The Vegas Kings, who changed their name to Ronnie and the Rumblers and finally to Ronnie and the Red Caps. From 1958 to 1960 Ronnie and the Red Caps recorded three, 7 inch singles., although one was never officially released.

In 1961 Ronnie James Padavona took the stage name of Ronnie James Dio, taking his last name from mobster Johnny Dio. He attended the University of Buffalo from 1960 to 1961, but never graduated. Ronnie and the Red Caps changed their name to Ronnie and the Prophets. Between 1962 and 1967 they released twelve, 7 inch singles. Ronnie and the Prophets disbanded in 1967. Dio and guitarist Nick Pantas then formed a new band called The Electric Elves, later shortening their name to The Elves in 1969 and then Elf in 1970. The Electric Elves/The Elves/Elf released four albums between 1967 and 1974.

The Elves had been an opening act for Deep Purple in 1969. In 1974, when Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple, he asked Dio and other members of Elf to form a new band called Rainbow. Rainbow released their first album, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow in 1975. In the United States the album went to #30 on the Billboard album chart and #11 on the British album chart. The album created a minor hit with the song "The Man on the Silver Mountain. Rainbow releaesd their second album, Rising, in 1976. It went to #48 on the American albums chart and #11 on the British album chart.The band released their first live album, On Stage, in 1977.

In 1978 Rainbow released the album Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, which would be the final Rainbow album to feature Ronnie James Dio . Dio left the band, citing creative differences. Having fired lead vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath asked Dio to join them as their new lead vocalist. In 1980 Black Sabbath released their first album with Dio on lead vocals, Heaven and Hell. The album went to #29 in the United States and to #9 in the United Kingdom. It also produced radio hits in the form of the songs "Neon Knights" and "Heaven and Hell." In 1981 Black Sabbath released their second album with Dio on lead vocals, Mob Rules. It went to #29 in the United States. In 1982 Black Sabbath released their first official live album, Live Evil. It would be Dio's last album with Black Sabbath for several years. Dio abruptly left he band in October 1982 while Live Evil was being mixed.

After leaving Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio and Vinnie Appice formed a new band called Dio. The band released their first album, Holy Diver, in 1983. Holy Diver went to #56 on the  Billboard albums chart and #13 on the British album charts. It also produced hits in the form of "Rainbow in the Dark" and "Holy Diver." Dio released their final album in 1984, The Last in Line. Their third album, Sacred Heart, was released in 1985. Their fourth album, Dream Evil, was released in 1987. It went to #43 on the Billboard album chart and #3 on the British album chart. It also produced a hit with "I Could Have Been a Dreamer."

Dio's final album of the Eighties was released in 1990, Lock Up the Wolves. It saw a nearly complete change in membership from the line up of Dream Evil. It also did not perform as well, going to #61 in the United States and #28 in the United Kingdom.

It was in 1992 that Ronnie James Dio rejoined Black Sabbath for the album Dehumanizer. Dio would not stay with Black Sabbath this time either, as he quit after Tony Iommi suggested they open for Ozzy Osbourne at the end of his 1992 tour. Dio would record five more studio albums with the band Dio: Strange Highways (1994); Angry Machines (1996); Magica (2000); Killing the Dragon (2002); and Master of the Moon (2004).

In 2005 Ronnie James Dio provided the voice for Dr. X on Queensryche's album Operation: Mindcrime II. In October 2006 Dio rejoined Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler and one time Black Sabbath drummer Vinnie Appice under the name Heaven and Hell. The group released a live album Live from Radio City Music Hall in 1987 and one studio album, The Devil You Know, in 2009. It would be Ronnie James Dio's last appearance on a record.

I think there can be no denying that Ronnie James Dio was one of the all time greatest heavy metal vocalists. He had a piercing,  nearly operatic voice that could hit notes both lower and higher than most singers in any genre. He was also a talented songwriter. I liked many of the songs he did with Elf, Rainbow, and Dio. And while I never considered Black Sabbath with Dio as the lead vocalist to be Black Sabbath (it's only Sabbath if Ozzy is singing lead), I liked the work he did with Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi. I must admit that I count both Heaven and Hell by Dio, Geezer Butler, and Tony Iommi and Holy Diver among my favourite metal albums. Ronnie James Dio was truly talented with one of the most impressive voices in all of rock music.

1 comment:

Bob Andelman said...

Ronnie James Dio fans might also enjoy this lost interview with the singer from May 22, 1986 on Mr. Media Radio.