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RONNIE JAMES DIO Dies Of Stomach Cancer Aged 67
May 16th, 2010

Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio, vocalist of metal ensembles Heaven & Hell and Dio as well as an erstwhile frontman for Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Elf, died at 7:45am CDT on May 16th, 2010 at the age of 67 following a battle with metastasized stomach cancer.

On November 25th, 2009, Wendy Dio (Dio’s wife) publicly disclosed that Ronnie had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was being treated at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, but that he would return to live duties following a recovery. However, on May 4th, 2010, Heaven & Hell announced that all of their scheduled summer dates were cancelled as a result of Dio’s ill health. The man’s last live performance had been on August 29th, 2009 in Atlantic City, New Jersey as part of the Heaven & Hell fold.

A public memorial service was held on May 30th, 2010 at The Hall Of Liberty, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles. A monitor situated outside the hall screened proceedings, with friends, family, and former and current band mates giving speeches as well as performing, such as Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple / ex-Black Sabbath), Joey Belladonna (Anthrax), Scott Warren (Heaven & Hell), Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), Rudy Sarzo (ex-Ozzy Osbourne / Quiet Riot), among others. The screen aired an accompanying documentary which chronicled Dio’s career.

Dio was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on July 10th, 1942, the only child of Italian parents, the family later moving to Cortland, New York. As a youngster, Dio played the trumpet as well as performing in several rockabilly outfits. As a member of high school ensemble the Vegas Kings, Dio occupied bass, later becoming lead vocalist. Rechristening themselves Ronnie And The Red Caps following an earlier rechristening (as Ronnie And The Rumblers), the group issued a single entitled ’Lover’ in 1958.

During 1960-61, Dio studied pharmacy at the University At Buffalo in New York, but opted not to graduate in favour of further pursuing a musical career. The Red Caps morphed into Ronnie Dio And The Prophets in 1961, issuing 1963 full-length Dio At Domino’s as well as several singles before their 1967 disbandment.

Dio formed the Electric Elves with guitarist Nick Pantas in 1967 (who died in a car accident during February 1968), which was more blues rock in nature, in contrast to the doo-wop-styled temperament of earlier efforts. In 1969, the Electric Elves shortened their name to Elf. Elf enjoyed a longtime association with Deep Purple, having been signed to Purple Records, as well as having Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover sit in the production chair for all three studio outings (sharing said duties with Purple drummer Ian Paice for Elf’s 1972 self-titled debut, and later gaining sole production credits for 1974’s Carolina County Ball and 1975’s Trying To Burn The Sun).

Dio’s connection with Deep Purple was furthered when he lent vocals to several compositions on 1974 Roger Glover concept album The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast. In addition, Elf supported Deep Purple on tours in support of the albums Burn and Stormbringer (both released in 1974).

Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, unhappy with the Purple line-up, would begin conversing with Dio, and recruit Elf’s line-up (with the exception of axeman David Feinstein) to record inaugural Rainbow effort Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975). Dio aside, Blackmore ultimately scrapped the Rainbow line-up for follow-up effort Rising (1976). 1978 opus Long Live Rock ’N’ Roll was the last to feature Dio behind the microphone, Dio exiting following a creative disagreement with Blackmore – Blackmore favouring a more commercial direction. Live jaunt On Stage preceded, a year earlier in 1977.

Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne as vocalist for Black Sabbath in 1979, guitarist Tony Iommi having previously met him at various parties. The track ’Children Of The Sea’ was subsequently penned, the first of several for 1980’s Heaven And Hell, applauded as a return to form for Black Sabbath. Entering the Billboard Top 200 at position nine, the platter achieved platinum certification. 1981’s Mob Rules followed, although disagreements ensued over the mix of 1982 live effort Live Evil. Other members accused Dio of wanting his vocals too loud in the mix, Dio as well as drummer Vinny Appice parting ways with Sabbath.

A 1990 reunion lasted until 1992, resulting in the Dehumanizer record (1992). Dio parted ways with Sabbath once again, refusing to support Ozzy Osbourne at a November 1992 “retirement” show in Costa Mesa, California.

A second reunion occurred in 2006, operating under the Heaven & Hell moniker until Dio’s passing. This culminated in 2009’s The Devil You Know, the preceding The Dio Years compilation (2006) boasting three exclusive tracks, meanwhile.

Namesake concern Dio recorded ten full-lengths over a three decade period between 1983 and 2004, most notably the opening brace of Holy Diver (1983) and The Last In Line (1984) which were recorded with the inaugural line-up of Dio, guitarist Vivian Campbell, bassist Jimmy Bain, and Appice. This line-up lasted for third outing Sacred Heart (1985), Campbell being fired midway through that album’s tour – Campbell later featured for Whitesnake for a spell, but became a mainstay for Def Leppard from 1992 onwards.

Craig Goldy was subsequently recruited, with whom the 1986 affair Dream Evil was recorded. Album five in the form of 1990’s Lock Up The Wolves featured an entirely revised line-up with the obvious exception of Dio. The Dio band was shelved altogether that year in favour of a Sabbath reunion, the Dio band being back on the agenda by 1993 but displaying yet another incarnation, this time that line-up being; Dio, guitarist Tracy G, bassist Jeff Pilson (ex-Dokken / Foreigner), and Appice.

The records Strange Highways (1993) and Angry Machines (1996) marked a departure from the dragons and wizards themes of past records, instead focusing on modern issues. 2000’s Magica was a return to classic fare, Goldy returning from 1999 until 2001 and then from 2004 until 2005, and then 2006 until Dio’s passing. For those gaps, Doug Aldrich filled in, performing axe duties on 2002’s Killing The Dragon, although it was Goldy who assumed said duties on Dio swansong record Master Of The Moon (2004).

In 2006, Dio made a cameo appearance in Jack Black comedy Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny.

Dio was first married to Loretta Berardi, with whom he adopted a son named Dan. His second marriage was to Wendy Galaxiola, who became his manager and handled said duties from thereon in until his death.