Along with Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio is considered by many to be the greatest heavy-metal singer ever. In the early 1970s, Dio fronted folk-rockers Elf, and although they secured a record deal and had Deep Purple’s Roger Glover in their corner as a producer, their releases were met with a resounding silence from the record-buying public. The chance to join Ritchie Blackmore’s post-Deep Purple project Rainbow in the mid-‘70s was too good to pass up, and Dio performed on LPs such as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Rising, On Stage, and 1978’s Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, before tensions with Blackmore bubbled over. After leaving Rainbow, Dio cast his lot with metal godfathers Black Sabbath, who were looking to replace Ozzy Osbourne. His arrival signaled a Sabbath rebirth, as 1980’s Heaven and Hell became one of the band’s biggest-selling albums. Dio’s tenure in Sabbath lasted from 1979 to 1982, after which time he started his own band, Dio, which featured ex-Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain, former Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice and guitarist Vivian Campbell. Free to further explore the same fantasy-based lyrical themes of goodness and evil that had always appealed to him, Dio emphasized melody in his new project. Their debut LP, Holy Diver, was a metal masterpiece. 1984’s Last in Line followed, and it was another smash for Dio, whose elaborate stage sets, props and special effects made them a must-see concert attraction in the ‘80s. A revolving-door lineup, changing trends in music and a 2006 reunion of the Dio-era Sabbath incarnation caused Dio’s commercial fortunes to sag, even as they continued to release new music. In 2010, Dio died of cancer. Highly sought after, autographed promotional items, records, photos and other Dio-related material – from the Sabbath or Rainbow years, as well as the Dio band – can fetch a pretty penny. Vintage pins, buttons and badges from Dio’s ‘80s heyday are of interest to collectors, as are tour t-shirts, concert posters and metal magazines from that time and stage-worn clothing and instruments played by members of Dio.
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