John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne (born December 3, 1948 in Aston, Birmingham, England), is the lead singer of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath, and is a popular solo artist and reality television star. Osbourne has been married twice and is father to six children: Jessica Hobbs, Louis Osbourne, and adopted son Elliot Kingsley, by first wife Thelma Riley; and Aimee, Kelly and Jack, by current wife Sharon. He has two grandchildren by daughter Jessica.
Black Sabbath met with swift and enduring success. Built around Tony Iommi‘s driving guitar riffs and Geezer Butler’s horror-laden lyrics, topped by 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 U.S. record label Warner Bros.
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, Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath. Though many believe it is directly due to drug use, it was in fact due to his increasing unreliability and failure to show up for gigs. He was replaced by former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio. Depression now fueled his drug and alcohol problems, as divorce from his first wife Thelma and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder heaped more stress on the singer. Despite these difficulties, Osbourne attempted to launch a solo career, managed by Sharon Arden, who was Black Sabbath manager Don Arden‘s daughter. With Sharon Arden’s help, Ozzy Osbourne was able to gain a recording deal with Jet Records, then a subset of CBS. However Sharon herself recounts that the band was lucky to be able to record and tour under the modest financial deal received from Jet.
The Ozzy Osbourne Band actually started out as The Blizzard of Ozz. When the first album, which was 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”. Ozzy met with considerable success on his first solo effort. The debut 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 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 who 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 City, a light aircraft carrying guitarist Randy Rhoads crashed while performing low passes over the band’s tour bus. The pilot 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 band mate. The record company gave Osbourne a break from performing to mourn for his late band member, but Ozzy stopped work for only one week.
Ex-Gillan guitarist Bernie Torme was the first guitarist hired to replace Randy once the tour resumed. Torme, however, could not handle the pressure of learning the guitar parts at short notice, and balked at the idea of playing 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, Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis discussed how he came to play for Ozzy following Bernie Torme, and a few tidbits about the recording of the infamous 1982 Ozzy live album, Speak of the Devil performed at The Ritz in New York City. During an audition for guitarists in a hotel room, Ozzy discovered 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 hugged him and asked him to help out in the tour. The tour continued, and culminated in the 1982 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”, which was a record for his mother.
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.)
He 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 off the head 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.
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 and Sharon decided to pre-empt 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. In the same Guitar Player interview where Brad Gillis discussed how he came to play for Ozzy, he discussed the live album, and admitted that 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, 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 own 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’ death with Tribute, the live recordings from 1981 that had gone unreleased for years. Excellently recorded, the album cemented Rhoads’ legendary status as an imaginative and talented musician. 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 band mate 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 four 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 sustained 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 his recording ensemble to write and arrange the music. The platinum 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 catalogue 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 rumors 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 track contributions from the said musicians on 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, though they may be reissued sometime soon by Sony BMG.
Scream (2010) is Ozzy Osbourne’s first album in three years and tenth studio album overall. The album was produced by Ozzy and Kevin Churko, both of whom did the same honors for Ozzy’s 2007 worldwide million-seller Black Rain, the album. The multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer recorded most of the album at his Los Angeles home studio, The Bunker, and co-wrote all the songs, primarily with Churko. Notably, the album marks the first appearance of Ozzy’s new guitar player, Gus G. Ozzy’s band also features bassist Blasko, drummer Tommy Clufetos and keyboardist Adam Wakeman.