Ronald James Padavona (July 10, 1942 – May 16, 2010) known professionally as Ronnie James Dio or simply Dio, was an American heavy metal singer-songwriter and composer. He fronted or founded numerous groups throughout his career, including Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio, and Heaven & Hell.
Dio is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal artists of all time. He is known for introducing and popularizing the "Metal Horns" hand gesture in metal culture and his medieval-themed song lyrics. According to a version provided by the singer himself, the act derives directly from the classic Italian apotropaic gesture, which his grandmother usually did. Dio had a powerful, versatile vocal range and was capable of singing both hard rock and lighter ballads. He was awarded the "Metal Guru Award" by Classic Rock Magazine in 2006. He was also named the "Best Metal singer" at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards in 2010 and ranked as the genre's best vocalist in 2013 by music journalist Sacha Jenkins.
Ronald James "Dio" Padavona was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Italian-American parents from Cortland, New York. His family moved to Portsmouth from Cortland as part of his father's service in the U.S. Army during World War II and they resided there for only a short time before returning to Cortland. Padavona listened to a great deal of opera while growing up, and was influenced vocally by American tenorMario Lanza. His first formal musical training began at age 5, learning to play the trumpet. Padavona participated in his high school's band program and was one of the youngest members selected to play in the school's official dance band. It was also during high school that Padavona formed his first rock-n-roll group, "The Vegas Kings", which would later be named "Ronnie and the Rumblers" and then "Ronnie and the Red Caps". Though Padavona began his rock-n-roll career on trumpet, he added singing to his skill set and also assumed bass guitar duties for the groups.
Padavona graduated from Cortland High School in 1960. He was allegedly offered a scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music but did not take up the offer due to his interest in rock music. Dio instead attended the University at Buffalo to major in pharmacology. He played trumpet in the university's concert band; however, he only attended the university from 1960 to 1961 and did not graduate.
Despite being known for his powerful singing voice, Padavona claimed to have never received any vocal training. He instead attributed his singing ability to the use of breathing techniques he learned while playing trumpet.