EXPIRED: 05/16/10 – Ronnie James Dio, 67, can probably be credited soley for popularizing the “devil’s horns” hand gesture often seen used by fans of heavy metal during heavy metal concerts.
Dio was, arguably, one of the best heavy metal vocalists there was. He sang with with Elf, Rainbow, Heaven & Hell, his own band Dio, and for a time, replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath.
Born Ronald James Padavona in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Dio was raised a strict Roman Catholic. After moving to Cortland, New York he broke from the Church and found music. He took up the trumpet and recorded several singles with various rockabilly bands, eventually joining a band called The Vegas Kings, in which he played the bass guitar. He eventually became the lead singer, changed its name to Ronnie And The Red Caps and released a single called “Lover.”
He adopted the name “Dio” after mafia member Johnny Dio, and first used it professionally in 1961, when he added it to the band’s second release. Soon after, they changed the name of the band to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. By 1967 they became the Electric Elves. Two years later they became, simply, Elf.
In 1969 Elf got a gig opening for Deep Purple. Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore liked what he heard and when he quit the band he rang up Dio and the pair formed Rainbow, releasing their first album in 1975.
After 3 albums, Dio left the band to join a Ozzy-less Black Sabbath. They released the successful Heaven and Hell album, which revitalized the band’s career. He returned to Sabbath in ’92 to record Dehumanizer.
In 1982, Dio went solo finally and formed the band Dio. And then in 2005, he joined members of Black Sabbath again as a band called Heaven & Hell (Ozzy was back in Sabbath at this point and wouldn’t let them use the Sabbath name).
Two years later – in 2007, he was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame at Guitar Center on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard.
Unfortunately, the glory didn’t last long. In 2009, Dio announced that he had stomach cancer. He lasted 6 months.