Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona, an only child to an Italian family. They lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire until the family moved to Cortland, New York early in his life. His parents raised him in the Roman Catholic church, an experience he found unsatisfactory.
In 1960 Dio graduated from the Cortland City School and was inducted to the Cortland City School Hall of Fame in 2004. He was also honored on November 15, 1988 by his hometown naming a street after him, Dio Way.
He initially played the trumpet and even recorded several singles with various rockabilly bands when he was a boy. When he was in high school, he joined a band called The Vegas Kings, in which he played the bass guitar. He eventually became the lead singer of this band, which changed its name to Ronnie & The Rumblers and finally to Ronnie And The Red Caps. Their first 7-inch single was released in 1958.
Ronnie took up the name "Dio" after mafia member Johnny Dio, and first used it professionally in the early 1960s, playing in a band called Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. This was essentially the same band as Ronnie And The Red Caps, but with a different name.
During a performance at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in Darien, NY (near Buffalo, NY) on September 19, 2007, Dio revealed that he had attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in pharmacy. University at Buffalo officials confirmed that he did attend from 1960-61 but did not graduate. He formed one of his early bands during his freshman year. He was also offered a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music but did not pursue it due to his interest in rock music.
Dio's musical career began in 1957 when several Cortland, New York musicians formed the band The Vegas Kings, which soon changed their name to Ronnie and the Rumblers. This band's lineup had Padavona on the bass guitar, along with singer Billy de Wolf, guitarist Nick Pantas, drummer Tom Rogers, and saxophone player Jack Musci.
In 1958 the band again changed their name, along with a few changes of personnel. The band was now known as Ronnie and the Redcaps. At this point, Padavona began singing, replacing de Wolf. Musci also left the band, and a new guitarist, Dick Botoff, joined. The Redcaps lineup released two singles: "Lover" b/w "Conquest" (with De Wolf on vocals on the A-side) on the Reb label, and on Seneca (S 178-102, USA), 'An Angel Is Missing' with 'What'd I Say' on the B side (both songs featuring Padavona on vocals).
In 1961 they changed their name to Ronnie Dio and The Prophets. (Presumably, this is also the first time Padavona began using the pseudonym "Dio". The Prophets lineup lasted for quite a long time and produced several singles and one album. Some sources state that some of the single releases were made by Ronnie James Dio solo, but others, such as Dio himself, state that all of the singles were made as a band. Ronnie Dio and the Prophets disbanded in 1967, but he and Prophets guitarist Nick Pantas started a new band called the Electric Elves. They shortened their name to Elf in 1969, and went on to become an opening act for Deep Purple. Dio's vocals caught the ear of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, and when Blackmore left the band, he recruited Dio and other members of Elf to form Rainbow. Rainbow released its first album in 1975. Dio recorded three more albums with Rainbow, but he left the band due to creative differences: Blackmore had wanted to take the band in a more commercial direction.
Dio performed vocals on the 1974 UK single "Love is All" taken from Roger Glover's concept album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper Feast. Dio also provided vocals for the songs "Homeward" and "Sitting in a Dream" on the album which also featured Deep Purple alumni Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale. Black Sabbath and Dio
In 1979, after leaving Rainbow, Dio joined Black Sabbath, replacing Ozzy Osbourne. They released the successful Heaven and Hell album, which revitalized the band's career. It was during his time with Black Sabbath that he popularized the "devil's horns" gesture. Dio says that his grandmother used to make the hand gesture to ward off the evil eye, which is very common among superstitious Southern Italians. The "horns," or "Corna," themselves are used both to scare away and give someone the "Malocchio" (the Evil Eye). In 1982, the mixing of the live album Live Evil led to Dio and drummer Vinny Appice quitting the band to form the band Dio. Ronnie James Dio is not the first to use the "horns sign". The band Coven used it on all their record albums and on stage as far well going back to 1968. The Parliament-Funkadelic also used the "horns sign" regularly, as seen in many promo shots, album art work and concerts in the 1970's. In 1992, Dio briefly returned to Black Sabbath to record Dehumanizer. The album was a minor hit, reaching the Top 40 in England, and #44 on the Billboard 200.
Ronnie "throwing horns". He is widely credited as having popularized the symbol in heavy metal music.
Despite being known for his powerful singing voice, Dio claims never to have taken any vocal training. He attributes his singing ability to the correct breathing techniques he learned when playing the French horn as a child.
In 1997, Dio made a cameo on Pat Boone's In a Metal Mood, an album of famous heavy metal songs played in Big Band style. Dio can be heard singing backup on Boone's take of the Dio song, "Holy Diver".
In 2000, Century Media released Holy Dio: Tribute to Ronnie James Dio, an album featuring a number of covers by mainly power metal bands.
Tenacious D has written a tribute song entitled "Dio" that appears on their self-titled album that calls for the singer to "pass the torch" on to them. Reportedly, Dio approved of it, and had Tenacious D appear in his video "Push". He has also appeared in the film Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny, playing himself. However, on VH1, some have interpreted small clips of an interview with him as expressing resentment at the idea that he needs to "pass the torch" and seemed uncertain that Tenacious D is worthy of such an honor. When viewed in full, this interview is clearly done in good humor.
In 2005, Dio was revealed to be the voice behind Dr. X in Operation: Mindcrime II, the sequel to Queensr?che's seminal concept album Operation: Mindcrime. His part was shown in a prerecorded video on the subsequent tour, and Ronnie appeared onstage to sing the part live on at least one occasion (both shown on the Mindcrime at the Moore DVD).
During September 2005 Dio toured Siberia and Russia's far east, kicking off in Khabarovsk.
In October 2006 it was confirmed that Dio would be joining Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and former Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice to tour under the moniker Heaven & Hell, which was the title of the first Dio era Black Sabbath album. They chose the name Heaven & Hell as Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are still in the Black Sabbath band with Ozzy 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 he later withdrew. In 2008 the band completed a 98-date world tour.
On January 17, 2007, he was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame at Guitar Center on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard.
In a 2008 Metal Hammer interview, Dio confirmed that he is currently writing his autobiography.
Dio died at 7:45 am on May 16, 2010, of metastasized stomach cancer according to official sources.Wendy said on Dio's official site:
"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."