When you think of heavy metal one name will usually come to mind rather quickly. Ozzy Osbourne. And when it comes to names, Ozzy Osbourne may be associated with more heavy weights than any other man in metal. Tony Iommi. Randy Rhodes. Geezer Butler. Jake E. Lee. Bill Ward. Zakk Wylde. He’s married to the reigning first lady of metal, Sharon Osbourne. His family is heavy metal royalty in and of itself. His namesake is the most recognizable tour in metal history. He has sold over one hundred million records world wide. The title of “Godfather of Heavy Metal suits him well, don’t you think?
As most know, Osbourne began his music career in Aston, England along with bandmates Geezer Butler (bass), Bill Ward (drums) and Tony Iommi (guitar). In 1968 they were originally known as Earth and played heavy blues music. Due to a scheduling conflict with a band of the same name they changed their name to Black Sabbath. They got darker and heavier, even drawing form the occult and personal supernatural experiences. Black Sabbath would forge on to become metal pioneers, selling millions of records worldwide and going down in history as arguably the best heavy metal band of all time. They placed number one atop MTV’s Top Ten Heavy Metal Bands and two on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artist of Hard Rock. Their wrote heavy metal classic hits like “War Pigs”, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, “Sweat Leaf” and “Iron Man”, the latter of which was ranked number one by VH1 on its 40 Greatest Metal Songs countdown. Black Sabbath’s early releases are considered to be breakthrough albums in the realm of heavy metal.
And Sabbath also had a taste for the debauchery of rock-n-roll. Every member of the band abused alcohol and a number of drugs. In fact, it was his drug and alcohol use that got Osbourne fired as Sabbath’s frontman; a fact which he took offense considering it to be akin to the pot calling the kettle black. For many musicians, this fall from the upper echelon of the music world could never be fully recovered. But this isn’t just any musician. This is Osbourne.
Ozzy went on to pursue a solo career. The band was originally called the Blizzard of Ozz, but when it came time to release his debut album his label instead only gave Ozzy credit in the band name. Blizzard of Oz went on to be a great success for his solo debut. It was Ozzy’s first of two album recording with the late, great guitarist Randy Rhodes. The album featured many classics, including the hit single “Crazy Train” which put Ozzy’s solo career and Rhodes’ professional career on the map. Blizzard of Ozz went on to sell four million records in the US alone.
Ozzy’s second album was titled Diary of a Madman, which featured the singles “Over the Mountain”, “Flying High Again” and the title track. The album featured several acoustic and classical intros, further showcasing Rhodes’ guitar skills. Unfortunately, tragedy would strike Ozzy’s band and career.
On 19 March 1982 while Rhoads was in Florida for the follow-up Diary of a Madman tour, and a week away from playing Madison Square Gardenin New York City, a light aircraft piloted by Andrew Aycock (the band’s tour bus driver) carrying guitarist Randy Rhoads crashed while performing low passes over the band’s tour bus. In a prank turned deadly, the left wing of the aircraft clipped the bus, grazed a tree, and crashed into the attached garage of a nearby mansion killing Rhoads, Aycock, and the band’s hairdresser, Rachel Youngblood. Upon an autopsy, cocaine was found present in Aycock’s system. The crash was officially ruled the result of “poor judgment by the pilot in buzzing the bus and misjudging clearance of obstacles”. Experiencing firsthand the horrific death of his close friend and band mate, Osbourne fell into a deep depression.
The madman would bounce back however with the 1983 release of Bark at the Moon. This is the only album in which Osbourne was give sole songwriting credits. But a look in the linear notes of compilation album from 1997, The Ozzman, Cometh and you will read Osbourne stating that new guitarist Jake E. Lee, formerly of Ratt, did in fact co-write the title track. The album has been certified triple Platinum by the RIAA. On February 22, 1968 Osbourne released the double Platinum The Ultimate Sin. Though the album was successful, it holds and interesting controversy. A legal battle with bassist Phil Soussan over the co-written track and hit “Shot in the Dark” was waged. This maybe the reason why the album has failed to be re-mastered and re-issued like the rest of Ozzy’s albums and why it has since been completely removed from Osbourne’s official catalog.
In 1988, Ozzy released No Rest for the Wicked, which was the first recording to feature legendary guitarist and current frontman and founder of Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde. Geezer Butler was a replacement on bass for original bassist/lyricist Bob Daisley, who had returned after and original falling out with Ozzy in 1985. “Miracle Man”, “Crazy Babies”, and “Breakin’ All the Rules” were released as singles. The album went on to sell more than two million copies in the US, continuing Ozzy’s Platinum expectations. In 1991, Ozzy released No More Tears, which featured the singles “Mama I’m Coming Home”, “No More Tears” and “Time After Time”. No More Tears was another big success for Ozzy, going quadruple Platinum. It was the last Ozzy album to feature Randy Castillo on drums and Daisley on bass.
Ozzy went on to release four more albums, three of which peaked at number four on the Billboard 200: 1995’s Double Platinum effort Ozzmosis, 2001’s Platinum release Down to Earth, 2007’ gold release Black Rain and 2010’s Scream. Combined with the sells of his Black Sabbath releases, Ozzy has sold more than 100 million records to date!
His went on to found the most recognizable music festivals of all time, and the hands down show of shows in live metal, Ozzfest. The biggest names in metal have played Ozzfest including Metallica, Tool, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Slayer, Avenged Sevenfold, Godsmack and many more. He also had a hit reality television show called the Osbournes which stared his family, including his manager, overall behind the scenes genius wife Sharon. Ozzy’s career has not been void of controversy either. Besides the well documented substance abuse and legal battles, he may be most infamous for biting the head off of a dove at a meeting full of music executives and later bite off the head of a live bat in concert.
It has been a long, eventful and successful career for Osbourne. The crowing jewel may have been his induction into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Black Sabbath in 2006. There is a very good chance that he will also be inducted as a solo performer as well. It is yet to be seen whether the end has come for Osbourne’s musical career. But whether or not he finds the fountain of youth once again and returns to the studio, his status as a heavy metal god will last until the very last detuned riff is played and beyond.