In the early 1980s, the combination of Black Sabbath and former Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio was so explosive that it blew up after just two unforgettable albums. They tried again in the early 1990s, but this time they lasted a mere one LP (the criminally underrated Dehumanizer) before old tensions returned and they split apart once again. They tried yet again in 2007, hitting the road as Heaven and Hell and playing sets filled with nothing but Dio-era Sabbath tunes. To the surprise of most everybody, audiences flocked to the shows even though they didn’t get to hear “Iron Man” and “Paranoid.”
Dio and the guys were older and wiser this time around, and they managed to keep the tour going for years, sharing the stage with the likes of Alice Cooper, Motörhead and Judas Priest. Dio may have been in his mid-60s, but his voice had lost none of its power as the band tore though classics like “Neon Knights,” “Heaven and Hell” and “Die Young” night after night. In 2009, they cut the new LP The Devil You Know and hit the road for yet another tour, which wrapped up at the House of Blues in Atlantic City on August 29th, 2009. Here’s a video of “Children of the Sea” from that evening.
It was the final time that Dio performed in public. Months later, word came out that he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. “We are starting treatment immediately at the Mayo Clinic,” his wife Wendy said in a statement. “After he kills this dragon, Ronnie will be back on stage, where he belongs, doing what he loves best, performing for his fans. Thanks to all the friends and fans from all over the world that have sent well wishes. This has really helped to keep his spirit up.”
The group eventually canceled their 2010 dates and Dio kept a very low profile after the announcement about his health, but fans grew optimistic about his health when he showed up in person at the Golden God Awards in Los Angeles to accept the award for Best Metal Singer on April 8th, 2010. “It’s great to be back amongst people again,” he said to the cheering crowd after flashing his trademark devil horn hand signal. “Especially since its been a little while since I’ve been able to do that. But I feel pretty good and can’t wait to get back on the stage again.”
Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Just a little over a month later he passed away. Thankfully, a camera was running that last night in Atlantic City to capture the final performance by one of the greatest vocalists in rock history.