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Watch an early clip of Ronnie James Dio performing with first band The Prophets

The legendary Ronnie James Dio took the mantle from Ozzy Osbourne after he departed from Black Sabbath to cement his legacy. Dio, alongside Tony Iommi, created a refreshing sound that helped the band solidify their hardened metal sound. His wailing vocals sounded so otherworldly that they were the perfect foil to the thunderous riffs of Iommi, and the invariably pounding rhythm section, which comprised of a variety of characters over his four separate stints. 

In 1979, Dio replaced the outgoing Ozzy Osbourne as the frontman of Black Sabbath. He appeared on three studio albums of theirs, 1980’s Heaven & Hell, 1981’s Mob Rules, and during his third stint with the band, 1992’s Dehumanizer. For all of those wanting to familiarise themselves with his Sabbath work, if you want a reflection of the combined power of his and Iommi’s work, look no further than ‘The Sign of the Southern Cross’ from Mob Rules, which also happens to be one of Tonny Iommi’s finest moments on a guitar. 

It would be a disservice to say that Dio’s career was mainly concerned with Sabbath. Prior to Sabbath, he had been in the successful rock band Elf, who had regularly supported Deep Purple, and it was through this connection that he was asked to join Ritchie Blackmore’s new band Rainbow in 1975.

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So, prior to Sabbath, Dio had already enjoyed much creative and commercial success, and it was a trend that continued after he left the band for the first time in 1982. He quit the band and formed the supergroup Dio, which became one of the most influential heavy metal acts of all time. 

Aside from his astounding vocals, Dio is widely credited with being the person who popularised the most metal thing in existence, the ‘devil horns‘ hand gesture. Per an account provided by Dio himself, the act is taken directly from traditional Italian apotropaic gestures that his grandmother often used. It’s a form of protective magic that’s intended to turn away evil influences and misfortune.

Dio wasn’t always such a master of all things metal. Back in the ’60s, prior to the formation of Elf, he was just another hippie trying to make his way in the world and as a musician. 

Luckily for us, some footage from a 1967 concert performed by one of Dio’s early band’s, Ronnie Dio and the Prophets, has been uncovered by a fan. In it, we see the band do their thing, looking like just any other ’60s band, with their guitars held beneath their chins, performing on what seems to be a farm, with each member standing on individual platforms that are made from old cars. Unfortunately, the original sound is not included, but the single ‘Hey Look Me Over’ is. 

The Prophets lasted for a number of years, touring around the local New York area. They only produced one album, but they set Dio on his path to becoming the musician we all know and love today. In 1967 they transitioned into The Electric Elves, who then became Elf, and the rest is history.

Watch the footage of Ronnie Dio and the Prophets performing below.

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