With Black Sabbath he pioneered the Heavy Metal genre during the 1970’s
The Life And Career of the legendary Ozzy “Prince Of Darkness” Osbourne who turns 71
Ozzy Osbourne is a legend, one of those special legends from which Rock N’ Roll mythology feeds from, with Black Sabbath he pioneered the Heavy Metal genre during the 1970’s, his unique and sometimes insane lifestyle along with his distinguishable vocals and mannerisms have granted him a special place in Rock history and turned the man into an icon. Today the “Prince Of Darkness” Ozzy turns 71, we recap his life and career
Early Years and Black Sabbath
Ozzy Osbourne was born John Michael Osbourne on December 3rd, 1948 in Aston, Birmingham, England. Ozzy was raised in a poor working class family and they lived in a house where, according to his autobiography “I Am Ozzy”, didn’t even had a toilet. After leaving school at age 15 he was employed as a construction site laborer, trainee plumber, apprentice toolmaker, car factory horn-tuner, and abattoir worker. He attempted to commit burglary, stealing a television (which fell on him during his getaway and had to be abandoned), a handful of baby clothes (originally thought to be adult clothes as it was too dark to see when he committed the burglary, and which were stolen to sell to people at a pub), and some T-shirts.He spent six weeks in Winson Green Prison when he was unable to pay a fine after being found guilty of robbing a clothes shop; to teach his son a lesson, his father refused to pay the fine. Ozzy’s first and main interest in music as a teenager was The Beatles, he still is a big fan of the band who he consider to be the greatest ever. During the late 1960’s Ozzy joins the band Rare Breed invited by future Black Sabbath bass player Geezer Butler, however, the band only lasted two shows and soon after Ozzy and Geezer joined Polka Tulk Blues together with guitar player Toni Iommi and Bill Ward, they changed the name of the band to Earth and, later they renamed it again, this time for good, as Black Sabbath. In 1969, While recording their first album, Butler read an occult book and woke up to a dark figure at the end of his bed. He told Osbourne about it and together they wrote the lyrics to “Black Sabbath”, their first song in a darker vein. The band had an almost immediate success with their debut album in 1970, self titled “Black Sabbath”. The album, featured what they called “heavy blues”, it was soon to be regarded as one of Heavy Metal’s pioneering records. The same year they released their second album, “Paranoid”, that included their signature song “Paranoid”, “Iron Man” and “Electric Funeral”. Black Sabbath did a fast impression on the U.S market, which was usually a hard market to break for European/British artists, after it they became international Rock stars, and along it came all the cliches, specially on Ozzy’s case. In 1971 they released another masterpiece, “Master Of Reality” followed by “Volume 4” in 1972 and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” in 1973. In 1975 Black Sabbath were one of the biggest Rock bands in the world, playing on the same league as Led Zeppelin with record sales success, sold out shows and acclaimed albums, “Sabotage” was another hit album for the band however, around this period tensions within the band started to rise. Ozzy’s increasing drug and alcohol abuse as well as being unreliable for commitments and concerts, started to distance him from the rest of the band. Legendary stories about Ozzy are known from his 1970’s excess period such as the large amounts of cocaine that only he could handle. “Technical Ecstasy” from 1976 and “Never Say Die” from 1978 were the proof that Ozzy and Sabbath were no longer working well together. Those two albums were a far cry away from Sabbath’s early masterpieces. Ozzy started to plan his solo career circa 1978, he tries to go back into the studio with Sabbath but in 1979 he is fired and replaced by Ronnie James Dio.
Increasingly out of control due to his excessive life style, Ozzy starts recording his debut album, “Blizzard Of Ozz” on Don Arden’s Jet Records. The album features an all star band including young and promising guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads, and it’s surprisingly well received by the critics becoming Ozzy’s best selling album; it features some of his most well known songs such as “Mr. Crowley”, “Crazy Train” and “Suicide Solution”. Ozzy’s solo career ironically was more successful during the 1980’s than Black Sabbath at the same period with new singers. Ozzy released a string of classic and acclaimed Heavy Metal albums during that era such as “Diary Of A Madman”, “Bark At The Moon” and “Speak Of The Devil”. Also between 1981 and 1982 some of the most bizarre episodes in Ozzy’s life take place: in 1981, after signing his first solo career record deal, Osbourne bit the head off a dove during a meeting with CBS Records executives in Los Angeles. Apparently he had planned to release doves into the air as a sign of peace, but due to being intoxicated at the time, he instead grabbed a dove and bit its head off. He then spat the head out, with blood still dripping from his lips. Despite its controversy, the head-biting act has been parodied and alluded to several times throughout his career and is part of what made Osbourne famous On 20 January 1982, Osbourne bit the head off a bat that he thought was rubber while performing in Des Moines, Iowa. While some sources stated the bat was alive, 17-year-old Mark Neal who threw it onto the stage said it was brought to the show dead. According to Osbourne in the booklet to the 2002 edition of “Diary of a Madman”, the bat was not only alive but managed to bite him, resulting in Osbourne being treated for rabies. Also that year, Osbourne urinated on the historical Texas Alamo while on tour in San Antonio and while drunk and cross-dressing which prompted a decision by the city council to ban him from performing again in San Antonio. Ten years later, Osbourne was pardoned after he donated $10,000 to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. In 1982, now married with Sharon Arden, the daughter of Don Arden, Ozzy’s life was stroked with tragedy. On 19th March 1982 while Rhoads was in Florida for the follow-up “Diary of a Madman” tour, and a week away from playing Madison Square Garden in New York City, a light aircraft piloted by Andrew Aycock (the band’s tour bus driver) carrying Rhoads and Rachel Youngblood, the band’s costume and make-up designer, 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, causing the plane to graze a tree and crash into the attached garage of a nearby mansion, killing Rhoads, Aycock, and Youngblood. Rhoads was only 25 years old at the time and his death deeply affected Ozzy, he is still remembered as the best guitarist that was featured in Ozzy’s bands over the years. In 1985 Ozzy reunites with his former bandmates from Black Sabbath for the Live Aid concert but they still go separate ways after the short performance. As the 1990’s approach, Ozzy’s fame gets bigger than ever, by then he already had influenced two generations of Rock musicians, and became known as the “Prince Of Darkness” due to his flirt with the occult subjects on his music and videos.
Look at Ozzy Osbourne’s life in photos
The Reality TV Star and The Return To Black Sabbath
In 1988, Osbourne performed on the rock ballad “Close My Eyes Forever”, a duet with Lita Ford, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in 1991 he scores another big hit with “Mama, I’m Coming Home” from his album “No More Tears”, but as he gets older his drug and alcohol abuse doesn’t slows down, in and out of rehab and the father of six children, Ozzy announces in 1993 that he’s retiring with a retirement tour, which he calls “No More Tours” only to comeback in 1995 with “Ozzmosis”. He returns to touring, dubbing his concert performances “The Retirement Sucks Tour”. During this period his wife Sharon organizes a music festival based on his name and fame: Ozzfest that is set to include a line up of the biggest Hard Rock and Metal acts in the world. The festival proved to be a successful investment and still holds a reputation of one of the best in it’s genre. In the early 2000’s Ozzy’s career takes an unexpected turn when he agrees with MTV to star with his family in a reality show called “The Osbournes”, which follows the daily life of Ozzy, Sharon and their two children Jack and Kelly (with occasional appearances from his son Louis). The show lasted three very successful years worldwide and established Ozzy as a TV personality (he became a reality TV star again in 2016, when The History channel premiered a comedy reality television series starring him and his son Jack named “Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour” where during each episode they visit one or more sites to learn about history from experts, and explore unusual or quirky aspects of their background). In 2011, Ozzy reunites with Black Sabbath to record a new studio album, “13” that is released in 2013, however, drummer Bill Ward is left out of the reunion. In April 2013, Osbourne revealed through Facebook that he had resumed drinking and taking drugs for the past year and a half, stating he “was in a very dark place” but said he had been sober again since early March. He also apologized to Sharon, his family, friends, bandmates and his fans for his “insane” behavior during that period, in October 2010, scientists from Knome joined Osbourne on stage to discuss their analysis of Osbourne’s whole genome, which shed light on how the famously hard-living rocker has survived decades of drug abuse. Between 2011 and 2017 Ozzy spent most of his professional time on tour with Sabbath, the band officially dissolves on February 4th, 2017 playing the last date of their “The End Tour” in their hometown of Birmingham, England. Currently, Ozzy has been touring with another “retirement” tour “No More Tours”. It’s undeniable the influence and impact Ozzy Osbourne has in music and as a Pop icon for almost 50 years now, among the many honors and awards he has gathered since the 1970’s are a Grammy Award for the track “I Don’t Want to Change the World” from the album “Live & Loud” for Best Metal Performance of 1994 and in 2006 the induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Black Sabbath bandmates Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, and Geezer Butler. Ozzy Osbourne’s unique vocals, mannerisms, legendary lifestyle and persona have not only a chapter but a book of it’s own on the history of Rock music. May the Prince Of Darkness live for many more years to come.
Watch Ozzy Osbourne performing “Mr. Crowley” live on Rochester TV, New York, 1981 with Randy Rhoads on guitar
Watch the 1970 music film for the song “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath
Listen to some of best Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath songs compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify
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