Black Sabbath met with swift and enduring success.
Built around Tony Iommi's driving guitar riffs and
Ozzy's eerie vocals, their early records such as their
self-titled debut, Paranoid and Master of Reality in
particular are considered definitive of heavy
metal. This was despite rather modest
investment from their US record label Warner Bros. A
particularly clear example of Warner Bros. lax
commitment to the band can be seen in the album Paranoid
which was initially named War Pigs after the first
track. The cover art featured a man with a pig snout
brandishing a sword. The album was renamed because War
Pigs is an anti-war song. However the cover art was
never changed.
Several of their early singles, especially "Paranoid" and "Iron Man", continue to draw significant radio airplay to this day. Osbourne himself continues to play these hits when performing as a solo artist.
In 1979 Ozzy Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath. Though many believe it is due to drug use, it was in fact due to his failure to show up for gigs often. He was replaced by Ronnie James Dio. Depression fueled his drug and alcohol problems. He divorced his first wife Thelma, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Despite these difficulties Osbourne attempted to launch a solo career, managed by Sharon Arden, who was Black Sabbath manager Don Arden's daughter. Ozzy met with considerable success on his first solo effort. With Sharon Arden's help, Ozzy Osbourne was able to gain a recording deal with Jet Records, then a subset of CBS. However even though Don Arden was Sharon's father, she herself recounts that the band and her as manager, were lucky to be able to record and tour under the tough deal they received from Jet.
The Ozzy Osbourne Band actually started out as The Blizzard of Ozz. When the first album, which was supposed to be a self-titled album, was to be released it was agreed to name it Blizzard of Ozz featuring Ozzy Osbourne, but the record company featured Ozzy Osbourne with the album simply annotated Blizzard of Ozz. After this, things were simplified to The Ozzy Osbourne Band. Drummer Lee Kerslake (of Uriah Heep) and bassist/lyricist Bob Daisley (of Rainbow) however still refer to that era as the "Blizzard of Ozz". The collection immediately sold well with heavy rock fans who were impressed with the well crafted lyrics written by Bob Daisley and, more importantly, the impressive technical ability of guitarist Randy Rhoads.
To keep Ozzy Osbourne from delving into his addictions following the momentum of the first album and tour, Sharon decided to try to keep the band working. During this time period Ozzy's second album, Diary of a Madman, took shape,. Like the first album, Diary of a Madman was hailed as an instant classic and featured more of Bob Daisley's gifted songwriting and more incredible guitar work by Randy Rhoads. The album release did not go without controversy. Even though the songs were written and performed by the same four band members that created the Blizzard of Ozz album, the internal album art and credits were seemingly given to Ozzy's new touring band consisting of Ozzy, and Randy along with bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot) and drummer Tommy Aldridge, formerly of Black Oak Arkansas. Also not shown was keyboardist, Don Airey, who played on the first three Ozzy Osbourne albums but was never credited until the fourth album, Bark at the Moon.
In March 1982, while in Florida for the follow up album Diary of a Madman tour, and a week away from playing Madison Square Garden in New York, a light aircraft carrying guitarist Randy Rhoads crashed while performing low passes over the band's tour bus. The pilot (also the tour bus driver) who was aparently trying to scare his ex-wife (who was also part of the Osbourne entourage) clipped the parked tour bus and crashed into a nearby house, killing himself, Rhoads, and the band's hairdresser. Osbourne awoke from the tour bus and managed to save the life of the man living in the house, but those on the plane died on impact. Osbourne subsequently fell into a deep depression following the death of his close friend and bandmate. The record company gave Osbourne a break from performing to mourn for his late band member, but Ozzy stopped work for only one week.
Bernie Torme was the first guitarist hired to replace Randy once the tour resumed. However, Torme could not handle the pressure of playing the guitar parts in front of thousands of fans still mourning the loss of Randy Rhoads. There are very few photos of Bernie Torme playing with Ozzy, as his tenure with the band lasted less than one month.
In a rare interview later in Guitar Player magazine, Brad Gillis discussed how he came to play for Ozzy following Bernie Torme, and a few tidbits about the recording of the infamous 1983 Ozzy live album, "Speak of the Devil" performed in New York City. During an audition for guitarists in a hotel room, Ozzy discovered then Night Ranger guitarist, Brad Gillis. Ozzy sat on the edge of a bed and sang "Flying High Again," while Brad played the song and solo with his electric guitar unplugged. He played it so well that Ozzy, crying a little, hugged him and asked him to help out in the tour. The tour continued and culminated in the 1983 release of a live album, "Speak of the Devil", recorded at the Ritz in New York City over two days. A live tribute album was later released in which Osbourne talks about his relationship with Rhoads. This album included a studio song by Randy, taken from studio outtakes, called "Dee". This was a record for his mother.
Ozzy Osbourne rejoined the original line-up of Black Sabbath in 1997 for a reunion tour and has sporadically performed live with the band, parallel to his ongoing solo career.
According to the press, Osbourne's antics progressively worsened during the 1980s; his alcoholism and drug abuse continued. (He later underwent a number of treatments for alcoholism and drug abuse.)
Ozzy Osbourne is infamous for biting off the head of a live dove during a meeting with his newly signed record company. He was banned from CBS' buildings but he still retained his contract with CBS; though it has been speculated that this was a calculated stunt meant to intimidate the label executives into giving Osbourne more favorable contractual terms. Osbourne was also hospitalized for rabies after biting the head off of a stunned bat thrown on stage by a fan in Des Moines, Iowa. He later claimed to have thought the bat was a rubber toy. He was arrested after urinating near the base of the Cenotaph, a monument located in front of The Alamo, while wearing one of his wife's dresses, for which he was banned from San Antonio, Texas for ten years.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Osbourne's career was an effort on two fronts: continuing to make music without Rhoads, and becoming sober. Rhoads' first replacement was Bernie Torme (who reportedly could not cope with the pressures of learning the set list at short notice, and who never recorded with Osbourne), followed by Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, who filled in for the rest of the tour and associated live album Speak of the Devil. This live title, known in the United Kingdom as Talk of the Devil, was originally planned to consist of live recordings from 1981, primarily from Osbourne's solo work. With news of Black Sabbath also about to release a live album titled "Live Evil" however, Osbourne pre-empted his former band's efforts and the album ended up consisting entirely of Black Sabbath cover material, recorded with Gillis, bassist Rudy Sarzo, and drummer Tommy Aldridge. The music media hype and reporting that followed probably helped album sales for both bands. In the same Guitar Player interview where Brad Gillis discussed how he came to play for Ozzy, he discussed the live album, and admitted everyone in the band wanted to rework some parts, but were not given the opportunity. "Speak of the Devil" was musically left alone.
In 1982, Ozzy Osbourne was the guest vocalist on the Was (Not Was) pop dance track "Shake Your Head (Let's Go to Bed)" with Madonna performing backing vocals (a little known fact). Osbourne's cut was remixed and re-released in the early 1990s for a Was (Not Was) greatest hits album in Europe and it cracked the UK pop chart. Madonna asked that her vocal not be restored for the hits package, so new vocals by Kim Basinger were added to complement Osbourne's lead.
Jake E. Lee, formerly of Ratt and Rough Cutt, was a more successful recruit than Torme, recording 1983's Bark at the Moon (with Daisley, Aldridge, and former Rainbow keyboard player Don Airey) and 1986's The Ultimate Sin (with bassist Phil Soussan and drummer Randy Castillo) and touring behind both albums.
Meanwhile, Osbourne was involved in a legal battle of his own. In late 1986, he was the target in the first of a series of US lawsuits brought against him, alleging that one of his songs, "Suicide Solution", drove two teenagers to commit suicide because of its "subliminal lyrics". The cases were decided in Osbourne's favor, essentially on the premise that Osbourne cannot be held accountable for a listener's actions. Soon after, Osbourne publicly acknowledged he wrote "Suicide Solution" about his friend, AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott, who died from alcohol abuse, and that alcohol as a solution of one's problems is not the answer (hence the song's title). However, Bob Daisley asserts he wrote this song about his concerns over Osbourne's ongoing battle with substance abuse.
Lee and Osbourne parted ways in 1987, however, reportedly due to musical differences. Osbourne continued to struggle with his chemical dependencies, and commemorated the fifth anniversary of Rhoads's death with Tribute, the live recordings from 1981 that had gone unreleased for years. Excellently recorded, the album cemented Rhoads's legendary status as an imaginative and talented musician. In 1988, Ozzy appeared in The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years and told the director, Penelope Spheeris, that "sobriety f---ing sucks." Meanwhile, Osbourne found his most enduring replacement for Rhoads to date, a guitarist named Zakk Wylde, plucked from a New Jersey bar. Wylde joined Osbourne for his 1988 effort, No Rest for the Wicked, in which Castillo remained on drums and Daisley once more returned to co-writing/bass duties. The subsequent tour saw Osbourne reunited with erstwhile Black Sabbath bandmate Geezer Butler on bass, and a live EP (entitled Just Say Ozzy) featuring this lineup was released two years later. Geezer continued to tour with Ozzy for the subsequent 4 tours, and was a major stage presence throughout, playing as strongly as anyone since Rudy Sarzo.
While very successful as a heavy metal act through the 1980s, Osbourne also enjoyed some commercial success into the 1990s, starting with 1991's No More Tears, which enjoyed much radio and MTV exposure. It also initiated a practice of bringing in outside composers to help pen Osbourne's solo material, instead of relying solely upon the recording ensemble to write and arrange the music. The platinmum selling, top-10 No More Tears album was mixed by veteran rock producer Michael Wagener, who also mixed the Live and Loud album which followed in 1993. At this point Osbourne expressed his fatigue with the process of touring, and proclaimed his "retirement", which was to be short-lived. Osbourne's entire CD catalog was remastered and reissued in 1995. Also that year, he released Ozzmosis and went on stage again, dubbing his concert performances "The Retirement Sucks Tour". A greatest hits package, The Ozzman Cometh was issued in 1997.
Osbourne's biggest financial success of the 1990s was a venture named Ozzfest, created by his wife/manager Sharon and managed loosely by his son Jack. Ozzfest was a quick hit with metal fans, spurring up-and-coming groups like Incubus and Slipknot to broad exposure and commercial success. Some acts even had the pleasure to share the bill with a reformed, yet much older Black Sabbath. Osbourne reunited with the original members of Sabbath in 1997 and has performed periodically with the band ever since. Since 1997 there have been rumours of a new Black Sabbath album, though Ozzy has denied any further studio plans as Black Sabbath.
Osbourne's first album of new studio material in seven years, 2001's Down to Earth, met with only moderate success, as did its live follow up, Live at Budokan.
In the wake of a lawsuit by former band members Daisley and Kerslake, reportedly for unpaid royalties, Osbourne's catalogue was "remastered" again in 2002. This time, the original bass guitar and drum tracks from Osbourne's first two albums were controversially removed and re-recorded entirely. Two of the commercially less successful titles, Speak of the Devil and The Ultimate Sin, were permitted to go out of print entirely.
Ozzy Osbourne garnered still greater celebrity status by the unlikely success of his own brand of reality television. The Osbournes, a program featuring the domestic life of Osbourne and his family (wife Sharon, children Jack and Kelly, but not elder daughter Aimee, who declined to participate), has turned into one of MTV's greatest hits. It premiered on March 5, 2002, and the final episode aired March 21, 2005.
In 2002, Ozzy Osbourne and wife Sharon were invited to the White House by president George W. Bush for a ceremonial dinner. Bush praised Osbourne for his work on The Osbournes.
During 2003, a member of Birmingham City Council campaigned for him to be given Freedom of the City.
On December 8, 2003, Osbourne was rushed into emergency surgery when he was involved in an accident involving the use of his all-terrain vehicle on his estate in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, UK. Osbourne broke his collar bone, eight ribs, and a neck vertebra. An operation was performed to lift the collarbone, which was believed to be resting on a major artery and interrupting blood flow to the arm. Sharon later revealed that Osbourne had stopped breathing following the crash and was resuscitated by Osbourne's then personal bodyguard, Sam Ruston.
While in the hospital, Ozzy Osbourne achieved his first ever UK number one single, a duet of the Black Sabbath ballad, "Changes" with daughter Kelly. In doing so, he broke the record of the longest period between an artist's first UK chart appearance (with Black Sabbath's, "Paranoid", number four in August 1970) and their first number one hit; a gap of 33 years.
Since the accident, he has fully recovered and headlined the 2004 Ozzfest, where he again reunited with Black Sabbath. He has also turned his hand to writing a Broadway musical. The reputed topic is that of the Russian monk Grigory Rasputin, who held sway with Russia's last royal Romanov family. In 2005, he released a box set called Prince of Darkness. It contains four long-awaited discs, the first and second discs are collections of live performances, B-sides, demos and singles. The third disc contained duets and other odd tracks with other artists, including "Born to Be Wild" with Miss Piggy. The fourth disc is entirely new material where Ozzy covers his favorite songs by his biggest influences and favorite bands, including The Beatles, John Lennon, David Bowie and others.
Ozzy Osbourne and wife Sharon starred in yet another MTV show, this time a competition reality show entitled "Battle for Ozzfest". A number of yet unsigned bands send one member to compete in a challenge to win a spot on the 2005 Ozzfest and a possible recording contract.
In 2004, Osbourne received an NME award for "godlike genius".
In May 2005, the tremors he experienced and always linked to his continuous drug abuse were diagnosed as Parkinson's disease. He will have to take medication for the rest of his life.
Shortly after Ozzfest 2005, Ozzy Osbourne announced that he will no longer headline Ozzfest.
In 2005 he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame along with Black Sabbath where he decided to moon the crowd because of their poor reception while they were playing. This led to a standing ovation.
In March, 2006, Ozzy Osbourne said that he hopes to release a new studio album soon with long time on-off guitarist, Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society.
- Osbourne has shown symptoms of a mild hearing loss, as evidenced in the tv show, The Osbournes, as he often asks his family members to repeat what they say. This is possibly as a result of being exposed to dangerous noise levels at music venues.
- Osbourne is a supporter of Aston Villa FC.
- In 1982 during the "Diary" tour where Ozzy bit into a bat onstage, he contracted rabies and was required to get multiple rabies shots to cure him. The treatments caused some temporary hair loss, and as a result Ozzy shaved his head. At one point there were a large number of photos taken by the media where Ozzy is bald and posing wearing military fatigues and holding various weapons. At another point he admitted to wearing a blonde wig, colored "hooker blonde", and stated he would begin a show with it on, then pull it off at another point in the concert, to the complete surprise of fans. Such photos were used in music magazines at the time, but are now rarely seen.
- The main chords and melody of the song "Diary of a Madman" were created while Randy Rhoads was teaching a student classical guitar. Randy would hold guitar lessons while the band was touring around the United States. Ozzy was asleep and was awakened by the ongoing guitar lesson. He ran into the room, happily yelling at Randy something like; "What is that? What is that you're playing?!" Its brilliant, I'm taking it!" Randy tried to explain it was already a written classical part but Ozzy would have none of it.
- Ozzy made more than a few well known rock bands famous by touring with them as opening acts, and supporting their musical styles and success. In 1984 the opening band for the "Bark at the Moon" tour was Motley Crue, touring their second album, "Shout at the Devil". During "The Ultimate Sin" tour, Ozzy toured with Metallica, supporting their latest effort "Master of Puppets". Others include Soundgarden during their "Badmotorfinger" tour, and Korn, during their "ADIDAS" tour.
- Ozzy Osbourne's alcohol abuse and misadventures resulting from his alcoholism came to a very serious peak in 1988 after an assault on his wife/manager Sharon Osbourne. Ozzy made one final determined effort to finally rid himself of his distructive lifestyle. He successfully beat his addictions and has been sober since 1991.
- Ozzy Osbourne's attitude was always the focus of
attention. It gave him nicknames such as "the
madman" (in the 1980s, thanks to the commercial
success of Diary of a Madman), "the Godfather of
heavy metal" (in the 90s, due to his long lasting
contribution to rock music) and "Prince of Darkness"
(in the 2000s, as he started calling himself).
- Despite media criticism, Osbourne's on-stage
charisma managed to turn Black Sabbath in a major
act, hitting #1 in UK with the landmark album
Paranoid and selling 8 million copies during the
70s. The four Black Sabbath founders are widely
considered the creators of heavy metal style. Since
1969, the band sold over 70 million copies
worldwide, and over 25 million in the US alone;
their biggest album, Paranoid, is quadruple platinum
in US since 1995.
- During his solo career, Osbourne's only #1
single hit was a re-recording of Black Sabbath's
1972 classic "Changes", performed in a duet with his
daughter Kelly in 2003. However, he managed to hit
#4 in US with his last two studio albums.
- Ozzy Osbourne sold over 27 million albums in the
US, by far his biggest market, and over 50 million
worldwide, more than any other hard rock/heavy metal
solo act. Two albums, Blizzard of
Ozz (1981) and No More Tears (1991) are certified
quadruple platinum, for sales of over 4 million
copies in US.
- 5 million people have attended Ozzfest and it
grossed over US$100 million. It helped promote many
new hard rock/heavy metal acts of late 1990s and
early 2000s, including System of a Down, Limp Bizkit,
Korn, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Velvet Revolver,
Godsmack and Slipknot in spite of always having
Osbourne (either solo or with Black Sabbath) as the
headliner, it also featured other famous artists
such as Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and
Megadeth. Ozzfest also helped Osbourne to become the
first hard rock star to hit US$ 50 million in
- Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are one of UK's richest couples, according to The Sunday Times Rich List. They rank #485 in the 2005 list, with an estimated £100 million earned from recording, touring and TV shows. They rank above most music stars, such as Rod Stewart, George Michael, Robbie Williams, the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts and Ron Wood, and Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, and Dire Straits members.