Ronnie James Dio dies at 67; legendary heavy metal singer

Ronnie James Dio, a legendary heavy metal singer who replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath and also was lead singer for the bands Rainbow and Dio, has died. He was 67.

Dio died Sunday, according to a statement on his website by Wendy Dio, his wife and manager. Maureen O’Connor, a Los Angeles publicist, said Dio died in Los Angeles. No cause was given, but Dio had said last summer that he was suffering from stomach cancer.

“Today my heart is broken,” Wendy Dio wrote. “Many, many friends and family were able to say their private goodbyes before he peacefully passed away.”

Dio replaced Osbourne in Black Sabbath in 1979. His first album with Sabbath, “Heaven and Hell,” helped rejuvenate the group, selling more than 1 million copies. But Dio left soon after the release of “Mob Rules” in 1981 to form Dio.

He returned to Black Sabbath briefly in the 1990s and more recently had formed Heaven & Hell, basically a version of the band without Osbourne.

“Because I’ve been in and out of [a number of bands], people think I’m difficult,” he told The Times in 1997. “That [probably] comes about because I’m very intense about what I do. I have a really high standard, and I expect people around me to reach that standard as well. That’s probably unfair.”

He was born Ronald James Padavona on July 10, 1942, in Portsmouth, N.H., and raised in New York. He once said he would have preferred playing for the Yankees to a life in rock music. He started his career with local bands such as the Vegas Kings.

His career took off in 1975 when he joined Rainbow. Dio had been playing with Elf, a band originally called the Electric Elves, but after guitarist Ritchie Blackmore quit Deep Purple, he brought most of the band into Rainbow.

“With a guy who played guitar like Ritchie … and had this dark demeanor, it was perfect for me to get into a place where I could start writing darker and heavier things that I always wanted to do,” he told the Press & Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton, N.Y, in 2007.

Many of Dio’s most memorable songs revolved around the struggle between good and evil, including “Heaven and Hell.” He also drew heavily on medieval imagery in such songs as “Neon Knights,” “Killing The Dragon” and “Stargazer.”

“I consider myself a singer, not a shouter,” he told the Buffalo News in 2007. “It’s always interesting to me when over the years fans have come up to me and said, ‘Man, nobody screams like you!’ I know they mean it as a compliment, but inside I’m going, ‘I’m not a screamer, I’m a singer.’ It’s about a marriage of technique and feel, emotional content — not just screaming.”

In 1986, Dio organized “Hear N’ Aid,” an all-star charity collaboration to raise money for famine relief in Africa.

“He possessed one of the greatest voices in all of heavy metal and had a heart to match it,” Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French, whose band has toured with Dio since 1983, told the Associated Press.

Dio called off a European tour last year to begin treatment for his cancer.

“Most people have careers that last from three to five years, especially in metal,” he told The Times in 1997. “When you’ve have this good a run, you certainly don’t complain.”

Along with his wife, Dio is survived by a son, Daniel; his father, Pat Padavona; and two grandchildren, according to O’Connor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.