Heavy metal pioneer Ronnie James Dio would have celebrated his 75th birthday today, July 10. Born Ronald James Padavona in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the man who would become Dio developed a love of music at a young age, honing his unique singing voice through a combination of opera study (especially the work of tenor Mario Lanza) and the breathing techniques he'd picked up playing the trumpet. Dio broke into the heavy metal consciousness in the late '60s and early '70s through his work with the Electric Elves, and later Rainbow, his baroque-flavored heavy metal band with Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.
In 1979, he left the project and enlisted as Black Sabbath's vocalist, replacing fired frontman Ozzy Osbourne. He and the band recorded three albums together before parting ways at the end of the '80s, paving the way for Dio's eponymous band, and later Heaven and Hell, a group with current and former Black Sabbath members. Following a battle with stomach cancer, Dio died on May 16, 2010, at the age of 67.
Between his free-wheeling victory yell – the quintissential "Heavy Metal Scream" – his popularization of the now-ubiquitous gesture known as the devil horns and his cadre of kick-ass albums, Dio bequeathed the metal world some of its greatest treasures. More importantly, he helped popularize the genre as a form of deathly, riff-filled dramaturgy: opera at its most aggressive and caustic, a titanic heart to match his bandmates' hulking instrumentals. Black Sabbath's October 17, 1980 performance at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, in Hempstead, New York being one of the greatest testaments to Dio's strength as a frontman and a force of nature (It's chronicled on the 1981 tour movie Black and Blue), we're celebrating Dio's birthday with a trip down memory lane. Watch him lead Sabbath in a performance of the self-titled track from 1980's Heaven and Hell below.