Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne in BLACK SABBATH in 1980, recording the "Heaven And Hell" and "Mob Rules" albums, plus "Live Evil", before leaving in 1982. He rejoined the group 10 years later for an album called "Dehumanizer", and again teamed with the group under the HEAVEN & HELL banner. HEAVEN & HELL released an album called "The Devil You Know" in 2009.
In a new interview with Danny Stoakes, Ronnie's wife and longtime manager Wendy Dio reflected on the challenges the singer faced when he first joined SABBATH, saying (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "[Ozzy's shoes were] very hard shoes to fill, definitely. Ozzy, when Ozzy was on top form, was one of the best frontmen ever, along with David Lee Roth. He wasn't a great singer — Ronnie was a great singer — so the band, when [Ronnie] went into the band, the music changed a little; it was more melodic and completely different.
"I've always said: there's BLACK SABBATH [with Ozzy] and there's BLACK SABBATH [with Ronnie], and they're both as good," Wendy continued. "One is not better than the other; it's just they're different — they're totally different. I mean, Ozzy was an innovator, and that's music that was the innovations of the start of heavy metal, and I would never put that down. But Ronnie made a difference; he was different. He was more melodic, his songs were different, his stage performance was different. But it was very hard. He got spat on and he got booed and a lot of things in the beginning, but Ronnie, he carried on and did his thing. And then I think the kids started to really accept him. And, in fact, some kids I talk to don't even know about BLACK SABBATH before 'Heaven And Hell', but that's the younger generation."
In a 2009 interview with U.K.'s Absolute Radio, Ronnie said that BLACK SABBATH's decision to reunite as HEAVEN & HELL in 2006 with him on vocals was done in part "to differentiate us from the SABBATH that had come before. What it really did was this — it allayed this: 'Hey, play 'Iron Man'," he explained. "We didn't have to worry about that or feel bad about not playing those songs — about playing 'Iron Man' or 'Paranoid' or 'Black Sabbath' or 'Fairies Wear Boots' — we didn't have to do that, because we tried to differentiate ourselves by a timeline and by a name that, of course, that spoke so much of… You think of HEAVEN & HELL, you usually think of that song, so now you think of this band. And I think it was wonderful that it worked so well."
Asked if ever felt an obligation to play some of the Ozzy-era SABBATH songs, especially at various European festivals, as a way of letting the audience know, "This is what we're famous for," Ronnie said: "Well, it's not what I was famous for, and I'm part of this band. I mean, I don't hear Ozzy doing 'Heaven And Hell', so why should I do the other songs? And I think that's very sensible. We come from different generations of SABBATH — the two generations that were most important, I think. And no, I think we tried so hard to call this band a different name, that why go back and relate to that? It makes us really seem [like] hypocrites, I think, to do that."
Ronnie passed away of stomach cancer on May 16, 2010 at the age of 67.
Dio was renowned throughout the world as one of the greatest and most influential vocalists in heavy metal history. The singer was diagnosed with cancer in late 2009. He underwent chemotherapy and made what is now his final public appearance in April 2010 at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards in Los Angeles.
Ronnie's autobiography, titled "Rainbow In The Dark: The Autobiography", was released in July 2021 via Permuted Press.