After a round of reports and denials from various media sources and the camp of Ronnie James Dio early this morning, it's official: The former Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio frontman died today of stomach cancer at the age of 67. The legendary metal vocalist's wife and manager, Wendy Dio, first announced his illness last November; on May 4, all summer tour dates for his current band, Heaven And Hell, had been cancelled.
Heaven And Hell was a reformation of Black Sabbath's lineup from Dio's original stint with the group in the early '80s, after Dio replaced founding member Ozzy Osbourne. Not much was expected of Dio's Sabbath at the time, despite the fact that he'd already made a mark on the hard-rock world as the singer of Rainbow. But Dio's first two albums with Black Sabbath, 1980's Heaven And Hell and 1981's Mob Rules, not only rebooted Sabbath for a new generation of fans, they set a new standard for the band, which had grown flabby and unfocused during the end of Ozzy's reign. From there Dio formed his eponymous group, which rode to massive success and acclaim with 1983's metal classic, Holy Diver. The group soldiered on until 2004--with Dio returning to Sabbath for one last album, 1992's overlooked-yet-respectable Dehumanizer--before forming Heaven And Hell, which had been touring steadily since 2006.
Born Ronald James Padavona, Dio began recording in 1958 and released many records with a variety of outfits--including the '70s blues-rock band Elf--before finding widespread success with Rainbow, formed by Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore. It was in Rainbow that Dio's melodramatic, operatic, highly influential style first became known; he'd also gain notoriety by helping popularize the heavy-metal practice of "throwing horns," back before everyone and his grandma started doing it. Dio also walked it like he talked it: A dedicated collector of medieval armor and weaponry, he often laced his lyrics with sword-and-sorcery imagery--to the point of once touring with an elaborate dragon-and-knights stage show. In a statement on Dio's website today, Wendy Dio had this to say:
Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes 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.