Not happy with the state of Deep Purple in the mid-'70s, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore made the stunning announcement in early 1975 that he was quitting the group he had founded and led for over seven years in order to start from scratch. Teaming up with American vocalist Ronnie James Dio, Blackmore built Rainbow around the singer's former band Elf, minus their guitarist. Featuring bassist Craig Gruber, keyboard player Mickey Lee Soule, and drummer Gary Driscoll, the group's 1975 debut Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow was quickly embraced by European fans and yielded their first hit single, "Man on the Silver Mountain."

Blackmore and Dio were not too pleased with the album's sound, and decided to re-vamp Rainbow by drafting bassist Jimmy Bain, keyboard player Tony Carey, and former Jeff Beck Group drummer Cozy Powell. It was with this line-up that they entered Musicland studios in February 1976 to record the landmark Rising — once voted the greatest heavy metal album of all time in a 1981 Kerrang! magazine readers' poll.

Capturing Blackmore and Dio at the peak of their creative powers, Rising chronicled both the guitarist's neo-classical metal compositions at their most ambitious, and the singer's growing fixation with fantasy lyrical themes — a blueprint he would adopt for his (almost) entire career thereafter. Following its release, the band embarked upon a successful world tour, culminating in a sold out European tour which spawned the live album On Stage, released in 1977.

By the time they returned with the equally acclaimed Long Live Rock'n'Roll album in 1978 (featuring bassist Bob Daisley and keyboard player David Stone), Rainbow had established themselves as one of Europe's best-selling groups and top concert draws. But the volatile relationship between Blackmore and Dio had already begun to deteriorate. Blackmore had been so impressed with "Long Live Rock'n'Roll"'s success as a single, that he began to consider altering the band's sound in order to pursue a more mainstream hard rock approach. Dio officially quit Rainbow in early 1979.

Finding a suitable replacement for the charismatic singer proved a serious dilemma, and when Blackmore eventually recruited former Marbles vocalist Graham Bonnet, his decision came with an all-around re-tooling of Rainbow's sound, not to mention, once again, the band's membership, which now included former Deep Purple cohort Roger Glover and keyboard player Don Airey. With the release of 1979's Down To Earth, gone were the mystical themes and epic rock compositions, replaced by a more streamlined commercial hard rock style.

But despite containing two of Rainbow's biggest singles, "All Night Long" and "Since You Been Gone" Rainbow was about to change line-up yet again. Unfortunately Cozy Powell handed in his resignation but decided to finish the 1980 tour. Powell’s last show was at the first Castle Donington Monsters of Rock Festival in August 1980. Powell remembered “Being my last show, it was a bitter-sweet festival for me and I was determined to go out with a bang”. It would also turn out to be Bonnet’s last live performance with Rainbow.

Once again strapped for a vocalist, Blackmore found his man in American singer Joe Lynn Turner, who along with new drummer Bobby Rondinelli signalled a true career rebirth for Rainbow. Wishing to get a more commercial American-rock sound, the new Rainbow line-up was made to order for another bid at widespread acceptance in America. The first product of this new direction, 1981's well received Difficult To Cure helped the group regain some of their new sound. So did 1982’s, Straight Between The Eyes with new keyboard player David Rosenthal and 1983's Bent Out Of Shape with new drummer Chuck Burgi. Rainbow continued to do more and more successful tours around the world through the 80’s. However, it all came to halt in early 1984.

Blackmore finally relented to take part in the long-rumoured re-formation of Deep Purple's classic Mark II line-up. Typically, the guitarist refused to go out quietly, and Rainbow was backed by a full symphony orchestra for their final March 1984 performance in Japan.

Blackmore would resurrect the Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow moniker after quitting Purple for the second time in late 1993 and record 1995’s Stranger In Us All with new vocalist Doogie White. However, this incarnation would be somewhat short-lived and Blackmore would once again start from scratch with Blackmore’s Night in mid 1997.

In Memoriam
Cozy Powell