Ronnie James Dio dies at 67

Ronnie James Dio, considered by some the ultimate heavy metal frontman, singer for the bands Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven and Hell, has passed away from his battle with stomach cancer. He was 67.

Ronnie James Dio, in one of his last public appearances, last month at Revolver's Golden Gods Awards. Image: © MARIO ANZUONI/Reuters/Corbis

Word that the singer had died began circulating online Saturday night. His wife and manager, Wendy Dio, took to Twitter that evening and wrote, "He is not doing well, but he is not dead." On Sunday morning at 7:45am, however, she confirmed that he had indeed passed away.

A message on Dio's official website reads, "Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private goodbyes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever."

He was born Ronald James Padavona on 10 July 1942 in New Hampshire and started singing professionally with the band Elf in 1967 (so named for the singer's height - he stood just 5'4"). But Dio enjoyed his first real taste of success in 1975 when ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore asked him to front Rainbow. Dio sang lead on four albums for the band.

Then, in 1979, he went on to greater acclaim when he replaced the seemingly irreplaceable Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath. After successfully fronting Sabbath for two years, Dio struck out on his own with the group that bore his surname. Dio, the band, became hugely popular in mid-'80s, and on albums such as Holy Diver, The Last In Line and Sacred Heart, Dio established himself as one of metal's most powerful singers.

In 2006, Dio reunited with Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice to form Heaven And Hell. The band put out two CDs, Live From Radio City and The Devil You Know, and toured extensively.

In addition to his musical achievements, Dio is widely credited with popularizing - and some would say inventing - the 'devil's horn' heavy metal hand gesture (the raising of one's index and little finger).

"It's NOT the devil's sign like we're here with the devil," Dio said in an interview. "It's an Italian thing I got from my grandmother called the 'Malocchio.' It's to ward off the Evil Eye or to give the Evil Eye, depending on which way you do it.

"It's just a symbol but it had magical incantations and attitudes to it and I felt it worked very well with Sabbath. So I became very noted for it and then everybody else started to pick up on it and away it went. But I would never say I take credit for being the first to do it. I say because I did it so much that it became the symbol of rock 'n' roll of some kind."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.