his trademark tales of 'dungeons and dragons' may have single
handedly inspired Spinal Tap (more concisely, Tap's overblown
epic "Stonehenge"), Ronnie James Dio is unquestionably one of
heavy metal's most talented and instantly identifiable vocalists.
Born Ronald James Pardovana in Portsmouth, NH, on July 10, 1949,
the young Dio started his music career at an early age, playing
bass and trumpet for a local band called the Vegas Kings. The
band changed names over the years, until the late '60s when they
became the Electric Elves, specializing in rock and folk sounds.
By the dawn of the '70s, their name was shortened to simply Elf
(with Dio focusing on lead vocals full-time, and changing his
name to Ronnie James Dio) and a record deal came their way, with
ex-Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover producing. After several releases
failed to chart, Elf met ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore
through Glover, who had just left the Purple and was looking to
form a new project. Shortly after their initial meeting, Blackmore
invited most of Elf to join his new outfit, Rainbow.
While Blackmore's original musical plan for Rainbow was to get
back to basics (the complete opposite of what the rock dinosaur
Deep Purple had become towards the end), the new group ended up
sounded more or less like Purple, in fact, a more apparent prog
rock edge was added. Such hit albums as 1975's Ritchie Blackmore's
Rainbow, 1976's Rainbow Rising, 1977's On Stage, and 1978's Long
Live Rock N' Roll helped introduce Dio to the heavy metal masses
worldwide, but when Blackmore made it clear that Rainbow was his
band, Dio jumped ship. Shortly thereafter, Dio received word that
Ozzy Osbourne had left Black Sabbath, and a tryout was arranged.
Dio got the gig immediately (penning most of the Sab classic "Children
of the Sea" at their initial jam session), and helped Sabbath
break out of their creative and commercial slump, resulting in
such metal classics as 1980's Heaven & Hell and 1981's Mob Rules.
With Sabbath enjoying their greatest success in years, Dio shocked
the metal world by leaving what appeared to be a promising union
after the spotty Live Evil release appeared in 1982.
Fed up with the 'singer for hire' tag that was bestowed upon him
by many, Dio set out to form his very first solo project, called
simply Dio. Similar in style to his previous bands, but with a
slightly more commercial edge to it, Dio's first two solo albums,
1983's Holy Diver and 1984's Last in Line, racked up platinum
sales — making the band an arena headliner in their own right
(complete with a highly theatrical and prop-heavy stageshow).
In 1985, Dio also found time to lead a heavy metal version of
Band Aid/USA for Africa called Hear N' Aid, which saw an all-star
group of metallists performing a Dio-penned song, "Stars," with
all the funds of the single and album of the same name going to
fight starvation in Africa. Although Dio couldn't sustain it's
initial commercial success, they remained a consistent metal attraction.
In the early '90s, Ronnie mended his differences with his old
Sabbath mates, and found himself fronting the band once again
for an album, 1992's Dehumanizer, and subsequent tour. Predictably,
the reunion didn't last long, and he returned back to solo work,
resulting in such albums as 1996's Angry Machines and 2000's Magica.
— Greg Prato