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Ronnie James Dio

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Ronnie James "Dio" Padavona was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (July 10, 1942), to Italian-American parents. His family moved to Portsmouth from Cortland as part of his father's service in the U.S. Army during World War II, and they resided there for only a short time before returning to Cortland. Padavona listened to a great deal of opera while growing up and was influenced vocally by American tenor Mario Lanza. His first formal musical training began at age 5, learning to play the trumpet. Padavona participated in his high school's band program and was one of the youngest members selected to play in the school's official dance band. It was also during high school that Padavona formed his first rock 'n' roll group, The Vegas Kings, which would later be named Ronnie and the Rumblers and then Ronnie and the Red Caps. Though Padavona began his rock 'n' roll career on trumpet, he added singing to his skill set and also assumed bass guitar duties for the groups. Padavona graduated from Cortland High School in 1960. He was allegedly offered a scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music but did not take up the offer due to his interest in rock music. He instead attended the University at Buffalo to major in pharmacology. There, he played trumpet in the university's concert band; however, he only attended the university from 1960 to 1961 and did not graduate. Then he enrolled at Cortland State College but dropped out as well. In a 2000 interview, he stated that he majored in history and minored in English. Despite being known for his powerful singing voice, Padavona claimed to have never received any vocal training. He instead attributed his singing ability to the use of breathing techniques he learned while playing trumpet. Dio's musical career began in 1957, when he and several Cortland, New York, musicians formed the band The Vegas Kings. The group's lineup consisted of Dio on bass guitar, Billy DeWolfe on lead vocals, Nick Pantas on guitar, Tom Rogers on drums and Jack Musci on saxophone. The band changed its name to Ronnie and the Rumblers. In 1958, the band again changed its name to Ronnie and the Redcaps. Musci left the band in 1960 and a new guitarist, Dick Botoff, joined the lineup. The band released two singles: The first single was "Conquest"/"Lover" with the A-side being an instrumental track reminiscent of the Ventures and the B-side featuring DeWolfe on lead vocals. The second was "An Angel Is Missing"/"What'd I Say" featuring Dio on lead vocals for both tracks. Explanations vary for how Padavona adopted the stage name "Dio". One is that Padavona's grandmother said he had a gift from God and should be called "Dio" ("God" in Italian), although this was disputed by Padavona's widow, Wendy, in a February 2017 interview. Another is that Dio was a reference to mafia member Johnny Dio; this explanation was confirmed in his autobiography. Padavona first used the name on a recording in 1960, when he added it to the band's second release on Seneca. Soon after that, the band modified its name to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. The Prophets lineup lasted for several years, touring throughout New York and playing college fraternity parties. They produced one single for Atlantic Records and one album. Some of the singles (such as "Mr. Misery," released on Swan) were labeled as being by Ronnie Dio as a solo artist, even if the rest of the Prophets contributed to the recording. The group released several singles during the following years until early 1967. Dio continued to use his birth name on any songwriting credits on those releases.

In late 1967, Ronnie Dio and the Prophets transformed into a new band called the Electric Elves and added a keyboard player. In February 1968, the band was involved in a fatal car accident that killed guitarist Nick Pantas and briefly put Dio and the other band members in hospital. Following the accident, the group shortened its name to the Elves and used that name until mid-1972, when it released its first proper album under the name Elf. Over the next few years, the group went on to become a regular opening act for Deep Purple. Elf recorded three albums until the members' involvement in recording the first Rainbow album in early 1975, resulting in Elf disbanding. In the mid-1970s, Dio's vocals caught the ear of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who was planning on leaving Deep Purple due to creative differences over the band's new direction. Blackmore invited Dio, along with Gary Driscoll, to record two songs in Tampa, Florida, on December 12, 1974. Blackmore stated in 1983, "I left Deep Purple because I'd met up with Ronnie Dio, and he was so easy to work with. He was originally just going to do one track of a solo LP, but we ended up doing the whole LP in three weeks, which I was very excited about." Being satisfied with the results, Blackmore decided to recruit more of Elf's musicians and form his own band, initially known as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. They released the self-titled debut album Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in early 1975. After that, Dio recorded two more studio albums Rising (1976) and Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978), the live album On Stage and two archival live albums – (Live in Munich 1977 and Live in Germany1976) – with Blackmore. During his tenure with Rainbow, Dio and Blackmore were the only constant members. Dio is credited on those albums for all lyrical authorship as well as collaboration with Blackmore on musical arrangement. Dio and Blackmore split, with Blackmore taking the band in a more commercial direction, with Graham Bonnet on vocals and the album Down to Earth. Following his departure from Rainbow in 1979, Dio joined Black Sabbath, replacing the fired Ozzy Osbourne. Dio met Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi by chance at the Rainbow on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1979. The two musicians were in similar situations, as Dio was seeking a new project and Iommi needed a vocalist. Dio said of the encounter, "It must have been fate, because we connected so instantly”. The pair kept in touch until Dio arrived at Iommi's Los Angeles house for a relaxed, getting-to-know-you jam session. On that first day, the duo wrote the song "Children of the Sea," which appeared on the Heaven and Hell album, the first the band recorded with Dio as its vocalist, released in 1980. The follow-up album, Mob Rules (1981), featured new drummer Vinny Appice. Personality conflicts began emerging within the band. "Ronnie came into the band and he was doing whatever we told him, basically because he wanted the gig. The next album was a little different," Iommi recalled. In 1982, conflict arose over the mixing of the Live Evil album. Iommi asserted that the album's engineer began complaining to him that he would work all day long on a mix, only to have Dio return to the studio at night to "do his own mix" in which his vocals were more prominent. This was denied by Dio. The conflict led to Dio and Appice ultimately quitting the band later that year. In 1991, Dio returned to Black Sabbath to record the Dehumanizer album. The album was a minor hit, reaching the Top 40 in the United Kingdom and #44 on the US Billboard 200. The single "Time Machine" was featured in the movie Wayne's World, the tenth highest-grossing film of 1992. Close to the end of 1992, Dio and Appice again left the band, citing an inability to work with Iommi and Butler.


Wanting to continue together as a band, Dio and Appice formed the eponymous heavy metal band Dio in 1982. Vivian Campbell played guitar and Jimmy Bain played bass, the latter of whom Dio had known since his time with Rainbow. Their 1983 debut album, Holy Diver, included the hit singles "Rainbow in the Dark" and "Holy Diver", which have remained the band's signature songs. The band added keyboardist Claude Schnell and recorded two more full-length studio albums, The Last in Line (1984) and Sacred Heart (1985). A 1984 live recording, A Special from the Spectrum, was filmed during the band's second world tour and released in VHS format only. The band changed members over the years, eventually leaving Dio as the only original member in 1990. Except for a few breaks, the band was constantly touring or recording. They released 10 albums, with Master of the Moon being the last one, recorded in 2004. In October 2006, Dio joined Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and former Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice to tour under the moniker Heaven & Hell, the title of the first Dio-era Black Sabbath album. They chose the name Heaven & Hell as Iommi and Butler were still in Black Sabbath with Osbourne and felt it was best to use a different moniker for the Dio version of the band. Original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward was to be involved in this project, but later withdrew. In 2007, the band recorded three new songs under the Black Sabbath name for the compilation album Black Sabbath: The Dio Years. In 2008, the band completed a 98-date world tour. The band released one album under the Heaven & Hell name, The Devil You Know, to critical and commercial acclaim. They also had planned to release a follow-up in 2010. On November 25, 2009, Dio announced that he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and underwent treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. On May 4, 2010, Heaven & Hell announced they were canceling all summer dates as a result of Dio's health condition. His last live performance was with Heaven & Hell on August 29, 2009, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Dio died of the illness on May 16, 2010.

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