|Also known as: Ozzy Osbourne
Born on: 03.12.1948
Osbourne lived in Birmingham, England for most of his early life. Born on 3 December, 1948 and into extreme poverty to a family with six children, he also had learning disabilities (reportedly dyslexia), for which he was bullied considerably in school. To lift himself out of clinical depression, he took refuge in music early on, eventually becoming the singer of a local band, Rare Breed. One of his former bullies, Tony Iommi, reluctantly invited him to jam with his budding group, the Polka Tulk Blues Band (later renamed Earth), and was favorably impressed by his voice. At a time when psychedelic rock was the norm, Iommi and his partners decided to play heavy blues and sing about the bleak quality of life surrounding them. Because the name Earth had already been used elsewhere, they opted to rename the group Black Sabbath.
Despite rather modest investment from their US record label Warner Bros, Black Sabbath met with swift and enduring success. Built around Tony Iommi's guitar riffs, Geezer Butler's lyrics and topped by Osbourne's eerie, loud vocals, early records such as their self-titled debut, Paranoid and Master of Reality in particular are considered definitive of heavy metal.
Several of their early singles, especially "War Pigs", "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 this was directly due to drug use, Ozzy himself claims that he was purposefully fired on the advice of his attorney. He was replaced by former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio.
Early Solo Career
Depression now fueled Osbourne's drug and alcohol problems, and his divorce from his first wife Thelma and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder piled even more stress onto the singer. Ozzy even spent months locked up in a hotel room doing nothing but drinking and doing cocaine. One day, an unexpected knock at his door changed his life. Black Sabbath manager Don Arden's daughter, Sharon Arden, convinced him to pick himself up and restart his life. Managed by Sharon, Osbourne was able to gain a recording deal with Jet Records, then a subsidiary 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 began life as The Blizzard of Ozz. The first album was to be titled eponymously, but later it was agreed to name it Blizzard of Ozz featuring Ozzy Osbourne. However, the record company named it Ozzy Osbourne, with the album simply annotated Blizzard of Ozz. After this, the band's name was 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 selling well with heavy rock fans.
To keep 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 period a second album, Diary of a Madman, took shape. Like its predecessor, the album was considered by some to be an instant rock classic, and featured more of Bob Daisley's gifted songwriting and impressive guitar work by Randy Rhoads. Its release met with controversy, however. Although the songs were written and performed by the same four band members who created Blizzard of Ozz, the internal album art and credits were seemingly given to Osbourne's new touring band consisting of the singer and Rhoads, 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 not credited until the third 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 (also the tour bus driver) who was apparently trying to kill his wife who had been standing next to the bus (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, Rachel. Allegedly the pilot had cocaine in his blood. His pilots license had also expired many years ago. 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.
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. 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 release of the aforementioned live album, 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.
Drug Abuse and Animal Slaughter
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.)
In 1982, while fueled by drugs, Ozzy bit into a bat onstage, and was required to receive a series of rabies vaccination injections as a preventative measure against the disease. The treatments caused some temporary hair loss, and as a result Ozzy shaved his head.Ozzy said he thought that it was a rubber one thrown at him by a crowd member.
Osbourne later said that, at the height of his drug addiction, he shot 17 cats:
"I was taking drugs so much I was a fucker, The final straw came when I shot all our cats. We had about 17, and I went crazy and shot them all. My wife found me under the piano in a white suit, a shotgun in one hand and a knife in the other".
Osbourne's alcohol problem came to a very serious peak in 1989 after he assaulted his wife/manager Sharon.
Years later in May 2005, Osbourne experiencing tremors and linking them to his continuous drug abuse, found out it was actually Parkinsonian Syndrome, a non-progressive genetic condition, the symptoms of which are very similar to Parkinsons disease.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Osbourne's career was an effort on two fronts: continuing to make music without Rhoads, and becoming sober. The 1981 concerts were recorded with a live album in mind. Entitled Speak of the Devil, 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. Ozzy later commented (inside the cover of "Tribute") "I don't give a shit about that album. It was just a bunch of bullshit Sabbath covers." He also states that it was the recording company that wanted a new album, and that he was unwilling to release the tapes of performances live with Rhoads, believing this would dishonour his memory.
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. 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 or Gillis, recording 1983's Bark at the Moon (co-writing the album with Bob Daisley, and also featuring Tommy Aldridge, and former Rainbow keyboard player Don Airey). 1986's The Ultimate Sin followed (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 favour, essentially on the premise that Osbourne cannot be held accountable for a listener's actions. Soon after, Osbourne publicly acknowledged that he wrote "Suicide Solution" about his friend, AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott, who died from alcohol abuse, and that solution referred to both alcohol as a solution to problems and as a chemical solution. Bob Daisley, however, asserts that he wrote this song and that it was 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. In 1988, Ozzy appeared in The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years and told the director, Penelope Spheeris, that "sobriety fucking 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. In 1989, Ozzy Osbourne performed as part of the Moscow Music Peace Festival.
Later solo career and Black Sabbath Reunion
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 album was mixed by veteran rock producer Michael Wagener, who also mixed the Live and Loud album which followed in 1993. It went platinum several times over, and ranked at #10 on that year's Billboard rock charts. 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 and managed by his wife/manager Sharon and assisted 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 Black Sabbath. Osbourne reunited with the original members of Sabbath in 1997 and has performed periodically with the band ever since.
Since its start, five million people have attended Ozzfest, which has grossed over US$100 million. The festival also helped promote many new hard rock and heavy metal acts of the late 1990s and early 2000s, including System of a Down, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Disturbed, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Velvet Revolver, Godsmack and Slipknot. Up until the 2006 tour, Osbourne was always the headlining artist (either solo or with Black Sabbath) as the headliner, it has also featured other famous artists such as Marilyn Manson, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer and Megadeth. Ozzfest also helped Osbourne to become the first hard rock star to hit US$50 million in merchandise sales. 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 (for a reported sum of $30,000 each) by bassist Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves; appeared on the second solo album released by Jerry Cantrell: Degradation Trip Volumes 1&2; now of Metallica) and drummer Mike Bordin (Faith No More, Black Sabbath 1617 "reunion" gigs at OzzFest). The pair also played on the Down To Earth album.
Subsequent earlier albums, such as Speak Of The Devil, The Ultimate Sin, Just Say Ozzy and Live And Loud were permitted to go out of print entirely. Osbourne has stated that he has hated the sound of The Ultimate Sin, and he didn't like his image during this period as it was very "glam". More royalty disagreements sprouted up in later years between the Osbourne camp and Phil Soussan over this album; perhaps this was a way of squashing the argument.
As for the live material which was deleted, it can be speculated that Ozzy or the fans were getting tired of one live record after another piling up, containing most of the same songs and perhaps this was a way of cutting the slack since the release of Black Sabbath's "Reunion" set in 1998 and the release of Ozzy's "Live At Budokan" at the same time of the 2002 remasters.
However, possibly gauging the reaction of angry fans worldwide, most of the original 1995 remasters (with the miniature cover art) have been made available. Most new copies of the 1995 reissues are now only available as imports. It has been stated that the out-of-print material may be reissued again soon by Sony BMG, parent company to Osbourne's label Epic Records.
On December 8, 2003, Osbourne was rushed into emergency surgery at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough 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, 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. 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 favourite songs by his biggest influences and favourite bands, including The Beatles, John Lennon, David Bowie and others.
He 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".
Shortly after Ozzfest 2005, Osbourne announced that he will no longer headline Ozzfest. Although he announced his retirement from Ozzfest, Ozzy came back for one more year, 2006, albeit only closing for just over half the concerts, leaving the others to be closed by System of a Down. After the concert in Bristow, Virginia, the amazing show of excitement and gratitude from the audience, Ozzy announced he will return for another year of Ozzfest in 2007.
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.
In March 2006, he said that he hopes to release a new studio album soon with long time on-off guitarist, Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society. In October 2006 it was announced that Tony Iommi, Ronnie James Dio, Bill Ward and Geezer Butler would be touring together again though not as Black Sabbath but rather under the moniker 'Heaven and Hell (the title of Dio's first Black Sabbath album. The response to the news on Ozzy's website was that Ozzy wished Tony and Ronnie well and that there was only one Sabbath.
The new Ozzy album is currently set for release in February 2007.
Family and Personal Life
Osbourne has been married twice and is the father of five children: from first wife Thelma Riley: adopted his first wife's son, Elliot Kingsley (1966), Jessica Starshine Osbourne Hobbs (20 Jan 1972) Louis John Osbourne (1975). from current wife Sharon Osbourne: Aimee Osbourne (2 September 1983) Kelly Osbourne (27 October 1984) Jack Osbourne (8 November 1985). He has two grandchildren, Isabelle and Harry from his daughter Jessica.
Osbourne garnered still greater celebrity status by the unlikely success of his own brand of reality television. The Osbournes, a series featuring the domestic life of Osbourne and his family (wife Sharon, children Jack and Kelly, but not his oldest 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, Osbourne and wife Sharon were invited to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner by Fox News Channel correspondent Greta Van Susteren for that year's event. Bush noted Ozzy's presence by making a couple jokes such as: "The thing about Ozzy is he's made a lot of big hit recordings: 'Party With the Animals'; 'Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath'; 'Face in Hell'; '[Black Skies and Bloodbath in Paradise.]' Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff."
During 2003, a member of Birmingham City Council campaigned for him to be given Freedom of the City.
Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are one of the UK's richest couples, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. They ranked #458 in the 2005 list, with an estimated £100 million earned from recording, touring and TV shows. They ranked 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.