Heavy metal veteran Ronnie James Dio dies, aged 67

Sun May 16, 2010 9:07pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ronnie James Dio, the pint-sized heavy metal singer who replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, died on Sunday, five months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, his wife said. He was 67.

The rocker, born to an Italian-American family in New Hampshire as Ronald James Padavona, also led his own band, Dio, whose 1983 song "Holy Diver" is a classic-rock radio staple.

He also helped popularize the "devil horns" hand sign, a heavy-metal motif in which the index and little fingers are extended, while the other fingers are held down with the thumb.

"Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away," Wendy Dio, who also managed her husband, said in a statement.

"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."

She did not say where he died, but previous statements had said he was seeking treatment in Houston.

Dio first achieved prominence in 1975 when he joined Rainbow, a group led by former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.

"Ronnie had a unique and wonderful voice. He will be sadly missed in the rock and roll world," Blackmore said in a statement.

He moved over to Black Sabbath, the leading exponents of heavy metal, after Osbourne was ousted in 1979. He recorded three albums with the band before quitting. He reportedly complained there were not enough photos of him in the artwork for the group's 1982 concert album "Live Evil," and guitarist Tony Iommi referred to him as a "little Hitler."   Continued...

<p>Rocker Ronnie James Dio sings at the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas during the kickoff of his tour May 31, 2002. REUTERS/Ethan Miller</p>