Dio sings at the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas in this May 31, 2002 file photo. — Reuters pic

LOS ANGELES, May 17  — Ronnie James Dio, the pint-sized heavy metal singer who replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, died yesterday, five months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, his wife said. He was 67.

The rocker, born to an Italian-American family in New Hampshire as Ronald James Padavona, also led his own band, Dio, whose 1983 song “Holy Diver” is a classic-rock radio staple.

“Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away,” Wendy Dio, who also managed her husband, said in a statement.

“Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.”

She did not say where he died, but previous statements had said he was seeking treatment in Houston.

Dio first achieved prominence in 1975 when he joined Rainbow, a group led by former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.

He moved over to Black Sabbath, the leading exponents of heavy metal, after Osbourne was ousted in 1979. He recorded three albums with the band before quitting. He reportedly complained there were not enough photos of him in the artwork for the group’s 1982 concert album “Live Evil,” and guitarist Tony Iommi referred to him as a “little Hitler.”

After a successful stint at the helm of his eponymous band, Dio briefly rejoined Black Sabbath a decade later, by which time Iommi was the only original member left and the group had lost most of its fans.

Most of the Black Sabbath lineup reunited in 2006 as Heaven & Hell, taking its name from the title of the first album Dio recorded with Black Sabbath. The group toured and released a studio album last year.

Dio disclosed last November that he had been diagnosed with the early stages of stomach cancer, and would immediately start treatment. Two months ago, he reported that the main tumour had shrunk considerably, and visits to his cancer clinic in Houston had been reduced.

But earlier this month, Heaven & Hell said it would postpone a planned summer tour of Europe because of Dio’s illness. — Reuters

OH NO !! One of my favorite rock singers is dead !! I will miss his voice and songs.

*Lifts up a shot of whiskey listening to Rainbow in the Dark*