Ronnie James Dio, lead singer of Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Dio, dies


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Influential heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio, best known for his iconic wailing for Black Sabbath and, before that, Rainbow, has died of stomach cancer. His death was announced via a statement on his website from wife Wendy Dio, which read:

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. -- Wendy Dio


[Updated at 2:45 p.m.: Dio’s stomach cancer diagnosis became public in late 2009. Earlier this year, the artist announced that a planned European tour with his band Heaven & Hell would have to be canceled due to his declining health. Dio, however, was able to appear in Los Angeles at an early April metal event sponsored by hard rock magazine Revolver, where he spoke of the challenges of dealing with chemotherapy.

“I never realized what a difficult thing it was to go through,” he said in a video interview with Artisan News. “It’s a real cumulative effect -- the more you have, the more it piles up on top and it takes longer and longer to get over it. I find it very difficult to eat. I don’t like to eat, anyway, so I guess that’s OK. But I know I have to. But this makes it very, very hard. But if you’re determined to beat it, then you have to go with what you believe is going to beat it for you.”

Dio was born July 10, 1949, according to the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, yet there has long been dispute about his age. Fans have long put Dio’s true birth date as the summer of 1942, and numerous reports of Dio’s death have cited his age as 67.

Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne as the lead singer of Black Sabbath, who left the band in 1979 after increasingly reckless behavior. Dio’s first album with the group, “Heaven & Hell,” has been certified platinum by industry trade body the RIAA, putting its total shipments at more than 1 million copies. Soon after the release of 1981’s “Mob Rules,” Dio left Black Sabbath to start his own group, Dio.

Dio continued to record with his namesake group into this decade, and more recently had formed Heaven & Hell. The latter was essentially a reunion of the Obsourne-less Black Sabbath, and released the studio effort “The Devil You Know” in 2009. The Rhino album entered the U.S. pop chart at No. 8 after selling 30,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.]

The Times will continue to update this post with a more expansive look at one of the godfathers of heavy metal, but, for now, check out the above clip, eight minutes of Dio 101, which illustrates the breadth of Dio’s powers. Every metal vocalist who’s ever reached for an operatic note owes a debt to the master.


-- Randall Roberts and Todd Martens

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