What The Final 12 Months Of Ronnie James Dio's Life Were Like

Ronnie James Dio had a remarkable career as a legendary hard rock and heavy metal frontman. Not only did he make a mark as the lead singer of Ritchie Blackmore's post-Deep Purple project, Rainbow, a few years after that, he replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath and helped revitalize the band's once-flagging fortunes with their 1980 release, Heaven and Hell. And that isn't even mentioning his accomplishments with his eponymous band, Dio, which recorded an instant heavy metal classic with their 1983 debut, Holy Diver, and the album's title track. Oh, and we also have him to thank for popularizing the devil-horns gesture.

Dio's life came to an untimely end on May 16, 2010, when he passed away at the age of 67, just six months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. With his death, Dio left an indelible legacy in the world of rock music in general, influencing scores of musicians during his decades-long career and remaining a fondly remembered icon of the metal scene up to this day. Here's the story of Ronnie James Dio's final 12 months.

Ronnie James Dio toured with Heaven and Hell from May to August 2009

Named after the Black Sabbath song and album of the same name, Heaven and Hell was a band that featured the same Sabbath lineup that recorded 1981's Mob Rules — Ronnie James Dio on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass, and Vinny Appice on drums. After recording new songs for a Dio-centric Sabbath compilation that was released in 2007, they decided to tour and record together as an actual band, as recalled by Ultimate Classic Rock. This culminated in the release of the album The Devil You Know, as well as a tour that kicked off on May 5, 2009 — little more than a year before Dio's tragic passing.

According to the fan-maintained website Dio.net, Heaven and Hell's 2009 tour started with several dates in South America, with the first one taking place at the Coliseo el Campin in Bogota, Colombia. The band then performed a series of shows in various European countries — including the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany on July 29 — before heading to Canada and the United States in August to wrap up the tour. With the exception of two dates, these final shows on the tour all featured prog-rockers Coheed and Cambria as Heaven and Hell's supporting act.

He had big plans for both Heaven and Hell and Dio

As noted by Ultimate Classic Rock, Heaven and Hell's tour only lasted a week shy of four months because Tony Iommi had to undergo hand surgery, with their last show taking place on August 29, 2009, at the House of Blues in Atlantic City, New Jersey. However, Dio was very happy with the group's performance — going as far as to give them a "nine and a half out of 10" — and optimistic about the band's prospects going forward, despite admitting that the tour was a "tiring" one.

"When you've done such good things over a long period of time, and you've been good at it, you think, 'What am I going to do when I get home? Maybe we should have done more,'" he continued. "Of course, there's always sadness for that. But we'll do more. We'll be doing another album, and I'm sure we'll do another tour."

Although Dio did not provide any concrete timeline for those plans, he was more specific when talking about his eponymous band. The singer said he was planning a European tour with Dio in November and December 2009, one that would leave him enough time to "get home for Christmas Eve and go, 'Bah humbug!'"

Ronnie James Dio's cancer diagnosis

On November 18, 2009, Ronnie James Dio's wife and manager, Wendy, announced (via Blabbermouth) that the European tour was canceled because her husband was hospitalized for what were then undisclosed reasons. Exactly one week later, she issued another, much grimmer update on her husband, confirming to fans that he was suffering from stomach cancer.

"Ronnie has been diagnosed with the early stages of stomach cancer," she wrote, per Ultimate Classic Rock. "We are starting treatment immediately at the Mayo Clinic. After he kills this dragon, Ronnie will be back on stage, where he belongs, doing what he loves best, performing for his fans. Long live rock 'n' roll, long live Ronnie James Dio. 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 next major update from Wendy Dio came in January 2010, as she revealed that Ronnie had suffered a few "hiccups" during the holidays and spent three days in the hospital due to blood clotting issues, as cited by Hard Rock Hideout. She did, however, add that "all [seemed] to be going well" at the time of that statement, as her husband was keeping busy in different ways. Aside from adding more chapters to his book and preparing for a DVD celebrating the 30th anniversary of Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell album, he had apparently made friends with a fellow cancer patient who also happened to be a Dio fan.

His last public appearance was at an awards ceremony

Ronnie James Dio's last public appearance was on April 8, 2010, when he was at hard rock magazine Revolver's Golden Gods Awards to accept his award for Best Vocalist. As detailed by Metal Injection, he was up against some impressive competition, as he beat out Jonathan Davis (Korn), Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Serj Tankian (System of a Down), and Neil Fallon (Clutch) to win the coveted prize.

As quoted by Loudwire, Dio opened up about his cancer battle in an interview with Artisan News Service at the Revolver event. He described his chemotherapy sessions as a "long process" fraught with numerous challenges, including the fact that he was having difficulty eating. However, he also appeared confident that he was going to win his fight against the disease. He was particularly complimentary toward the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he was receiving his treatment, as well as his doctor, whom he described as the "best" in the world.

"I think I've done all the right things," he said in conclusion. "It makes me feel positive about my life and positive that there's a lot more of it to live."

Ronnie James Dio's final days

Less than a month after his appearance at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards, Dio issued a statement on May 4, 2010, commenting on the cancellation of Heaven and Hell's summer tour. As quoted by Sleaze Roxx, the frontman wrote that he was very disappointed by the "devastating" setback but still hopeful that he and his musical projects "will carry on and thrive" with the support of his fan base. "There will be other tours, more music, more life and much more magic," he added.

Ten days after sharing that statement, Dio was hospitalized after he told his wife that he wasn't feeling well. He went into a coma soon after, and on May 16, 2010, Ronnie James Dio was dead at 67.

In a March 2021 interview with U.K. digital radio station Planet Rock (via Blabbermouth), Wendy Dio recalled that she and her husband's other loved ones were optimistic that he would eventually "[kill] the dragon" and successfully recover from his stomach cancer. This was especially true during the Revolver ceremony, where he was seemingly "doing fine." However, it was during his final hospitalization — when Ronnie was supposedly in "extreme pain" and "agony" — that she realized he wasn't going to make it.

Dio may no longer be with us, but his long-delayed memoir, Rainbow in the Dark: An Autobiography, will be posthumously released on July 27, 2021. Per Billboard, fans can also look forward to an upcoming documentary from BMG covering the late vocalist's life and career, though details on that project's release date still remain unclear.