John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne (born December 3, 1948) is a British singer. Osbourne’s career has now spanned four decades. He rose to prominence as lead vocalist of pioneering English heavy metal band Black Sabbath, and eventually achieved a multi-platinum, award-winning solo career. In the early 2000s, his career as a celebrity revived when he became a star in his own reality show, The Osbournes (alongside wife/manager Sharon and children Kelly and Jack). In August 2008, Osbourne stated in USA Today that he intends to retire from his music career after two more albums.
Osbourne was born in Aston, Birmingham, UK and spent most of his early life there. His father Jack worked shifts as a toolmaker at GEC and his mother Lillian for the car components firm Lucas, to support him and his five siblings. Osbourne reportedly suffered from learning difficulties (claiming to be dyslexic ), making life at Prince Albert Road Junior School and Birchfield Road Secondary Modern School in Perry Barr difficult for him. However he did like music and took part in school plays. He also became a great fan of The Beatles from the age of 14 when he heard their first hit single. He left school at 15 and was then employed as a construction site labourer, trainee plumber, apprentice toolmaker, car factory worker and slaughterhouse worker. He also spent a few weeks in Winson Green Prison, when he was unable to pay a fine after being found guilty of burglary of a clothes shop .
Osbourne would later form a band with former Birchfield Road School classmate Tony Iommiafter he auditioned for a lead singer. During this time psychedelic rock was enormously popular. To distinguish themselves from the norm, Iommi and his partners decided to play a heavy blues-inspired style of music laced with gloomy lyrics. Names for the band included Polka Tulk and Earth. One day during rehearsals, the band noticed people queuing up outside a cinema where a horror film was being shown, and bassist Geezer Butler observed how curious it is that people like to be frightened. The film these fellows were waiting to see was the Mario Bava-directed Black Sabbath. After reading an occult book that Osbourne had let Butler borrow, Butler had a dream of a dark figure at the end of his bed. Afterwards, Butler wrote the lyrics to “Black Sabbath“, one of their first songs, in a darker vein. It was the prototype of the songs that became their main style later in their career.
Black Sabbath: Ozzy (right) with Tony Iommi in 1973
Despite only a modest investment from US record label Warner Bros. Records, 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 vocals, early records such as their eponymous debut album and Paranoid sold huge numbers, as well as getting airplay.
Early solo career
In 1979, Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath largely for unreliability due to drug abuse. All the members in the band did drugs; but Osbourne did them to a much greater extent than other members of the band. He was replaced by former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio.
In the late 1970s, the band Necromandus rehearsed with Ozzy Osbourne and briefly became the first incarnation of his Blizzard of Ozz solo project. The Ozzy Osbourne Band began as The Blizzard of Ozz, formed by Osbourne’s new manager and future wife, Sharon Osbourne. The first line-up of the band featured drummer Lee Kerslake (of Uriah Heep), bassist/lyricist Bob Daisley (of Rainbow), and guitarist Randy Rhoads (of Quiet Riot). The record company would eventually title the record Blizzard of Ozz credited simply under Osbourne’s name. Largely written by Daisley and Rhoads, Ozzy met with considerable success on his first solo effort, the debut collection selling well with heavy metal fans.A second album, Diary of a Madman featured more of Bob Daisley’s song writing and guitar work by Randy Rhoads, who was ranked the 85th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2003.
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 taken without its owner’s consent carrying guitarist Randy Rhoads crashed while performing low passes over the band’s tour bus. In a prank turned deadly, the right wing of the aircraft clipped the bus, causing the plane to crash into a tree and finally a nearby house, killing Rhoads as well as the pilot, Andrew Aycock, and the band’s hairdresser, Rachel Youngblood. On autopsy, cocaine was found to be present in Aycock’s urine. Learning of the death of his close friend and band mate, Osbourne once again fell into deep depression. 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 to replace Randy once the tour resumed. Torme however, found the pressure of learning the band’s songs so quickly and the idea of appearing before fans still mourning the loss of Rhoads unsettling. His tenure with the band would last less than one month.
During an audition for guitarists in a hotel room, Ozzy discovered Brad Gillis, who became his next guitarist. The tour continued, culminating in the release of the 1982 live album, Speak of the Devil recorded at the Ritz in New York City. A live tribute album was later released. This album would also feature a studio song by Randy, taken from studio outtakes, called “Dee” in honour of his mother.
Also, in a recent interview with Total Guitar Magazine Ozzy was asked if he wanted to say something about Randy Rhoads, the rock star said: “I have no regrets except I wasn’t able to keep Randy from getting onto that plane.”
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 fuck about that album. It was just a bunch of bullshit Sabbath covers.” He also stated 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.
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 more American 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. Also helping was the fact the song was clearly about alcohol abuse and suicide solution was a play on words. 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. 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 gas station. 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 four tours, and was a major stage presence throughout. 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 number 10 on that year’s Billboard rock charts. At this point Osbourne expressed his fatigue with the process of touring, and proclaimed his “retirement tour”, Comically called “No More Tours”, A pun on his No More Tears album. 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 during the 1997 Ozzfest tour beginning in West Palm Beach, Florida. 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, Drowning Pool, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Disturbed, HIM, Linkin Park, Atreyu, Papa Roach, Velvet Revolver, Godsmack, Avenged Sevenfold, Otep, and Slipknot. Up until the 2006 tour, Osbourne was always the headlining artist (either solo or with Black Sabbath), it has also featured other famous artists such as Danzig, Sepultura, Marilyn Manson, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer, and Megadeth. Ozzfest also helped Osbourne to become the first hard rock and heavy metal star to hit $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 2003, Osbourne recruited former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted after he left the band in 2000. Both Newsted and Osbourne were enthusiastic about recording an album together, despite the fact that Newsted left shortly after touring with Osbourne towards the end of 2003.
On December 8, 2003, Osbourne was rushed into emergency surgery at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, England when he was involved in an accident involving the use of his all-terrain vehicle on his estate in Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire. 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 (he also played the closing act for the second stage at the Shoreline in Mountain View, CA on July 1st as well as Randall’s Island, NY on July 29). After the concert in Bristow, Virginia, Ozzy announced he would return for another year of Ozzfest in 2007. Tickets for the 2007 tour were offered to fans free of charge, which led to some controversy (see Ozzfest article). In 2008, Ozzfest was reduced to a one-day event in Dallas, Texas, where Ozzy played along with Metallica.
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, Vinny Appice, 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, titled Black Rain, was released on May 22, 2007. Osbourne’s first new studio album in almost six years, it featured a more serious tone than previous albums. “I thought I’d never write again without any stimulation…But you know what? Instead of picking up the bottle I just got honest and said, ‘I don’t want life to go (to pieces)'”, Osbourne stated in a Billboard interview.
Ozzy performed one of the new songs which was called “I Don’t Wanna Stop” live on WWE Smackdown. This was also the WWE Judgement Day theme song.
On May 24, 2007, Osbourne was honoured at the second annual VH1 Rock Honors, along with Genesis, Heart, and ZZ Top. It was announced on May 18, 2007 that Ozzy would be the first inductee into The Birmingham Walk of Stars. In a ceremony conducted on July 6, 2007, a bronze star honouring Ozzy was placed on Broad Street in his home city of Birmingham in England, in his presence. Rock star Ozzy Osbourne has become the first artist to be honoured on Birmingham’s own Hollywood-style Walk of Fame. He was presented with the honour by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham. “I am really honoured,” he said, “All my family is here and I thank everyone for this reception – I’m absolutely knocked out”.
The singer, from Aston, told more than 1,000 fans on Broad Street that the brass paving star meant more to him than any Hollywood accolade.
In July 2008, it was announced that Ozzy Osbourne would be the recipient of the prestigious ‘Living Legend’ award in the Classic Rock Roll of Honour this year. Ozzy follows the likes of Jimmy Page and Alice Cooper. The induction ceremony is to take place at a gala ceremony on 3 November at London’s Park Lane Hotel.
On August 20th 2008, Affliction Clothing announced that Ozzy would be the musical guest at their October 11th Affliction: Day of Reckoning mixed martial arts event to be held at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Osbourne has been married twice and is the father of seven children (five biologically, and two adopted). He was first married to Thelma Riley (now a teacher in Leicestershire) and adopted her son Elliot Kingsley (1966); together they had Jessica Starshine Osbourne Hobbs (20 January 1972) and Louis John Osbourne (1975).
He later married Sharon Arden and had three children with her. They are Aimee Osbourne (2 September 1983), Kelly Osbourne (27 October 1984) and Jack Osbourne (8 November 1985). They also took in family friend Robert Marcato after his mother died, but never legally adopted him. Osbourne also has three grandchildren, Isabelle and Harry from his daughter Jessica and granddaughter Maia from son Louis. He wrote a song for his daughter, Aimee, which appeared as a b-side on the album Ozzmosis.He divides his time between Los Angeles and Buckinghamshire,England.
Osbourne achieved 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 their eldest daughter Aimee, who declined to participate). The program became one of MTV’s greatest hits. It premiered on March 5, 2002, and the final episode aired March 21, 2005.
Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Bruno and Billy Connolly provided lead vocals on The War Song of the Urpneys single and album track, although the version heard in the series was largely sung by composer Mike Batt.
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. President Bush noted Ozzy’s presence by joking: “The thing about Ozzy is he’s made a lot of big hit recordings: Party With the Animals; Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath; Facing 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.
He has over 15 tattoos, the letters OZZY across the knuckles of his left hand was the first he had done as a teenager by means of a sewing needle and pencil lead .
Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are one of the UK’s richest couples, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. They ranked at number 458 in 2005, with an estimated £100 million earned from recording, touring and TV shows. They ranked above most British music stars, such as Rod Stewart, George Michael, Robbie Williams, the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, and Pink Floyd, Queen, and Dire Straits members.
Osbourne experienced tremors for some years and linked them to his continuous drug abuse. In May 2005 he found out it was actually Parkin Syndrome, a genetic condition, the symptoms of which are very similar to Parkinson’s disease. Osbourne will have to take daily medication for the rest of his life to combat the involuntary shudders associated with the condition. Osbourne has shown symptoms of a mild hearing loss, as evidenced in the television show, The Osbournes, as he often asks his family members to repeat what they say.
Ozzy Osbourne found himself under fire in his controversial concert and stage acts that some parent-teacher associations, media content watchdog activist groups, including many Christian groups accused Osbourne of being a negative influence for teenagers. They claimed messages on his songs, actions (the infamous “horned hand“) and stage decorations are portrayals of devil worship and glorified Satanism, but Osbourne denies these accusations and he claims it was done in good fun, symbolised teenage rebellion and for shock value. Ozzy actually flashed a peace sign with each hand; Ronnie James Dio was better known for flashing the “horns”, which is actually an Italian tradition. At least one scholar has compared the controversy surrounding Ozzy and accusations of Satanism to those leveled against the renowned occultist, Aleister Crowley, and how both were demonized by the media and the Christian Right for their antics. Ozzy tempts the comparison with his song “Mr. Crowley“. Both Ozzy and Crowley enjoyed the infamy of being labeled Satanists, though both denied the charge. Still, that they accepted labels such as Prince of Darkness (Ozzy) and The Great Beast (Crowley), terms cited by critics to condemn both men as anti-Christian.
Ozzy was thought to have made songs that are held to promote or condone suicide. In 1985, California teenager John McCollum committed suicide while listening to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution“, a song about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Although McCollum suffered clinical depression, his parents sued Ozzy Osbourne (McCollum v. CBS) for their son’s death, claiming the lyrics in the song, “Where to hide, suicide is the only way out. Don’t you know what it’s really about?”, convinced McCollum to commit suicide. Although the family lawyer suggested that Osbourne should be criminally charged for encouraging a young person to commit suicide, the courts overturned the case because there was no connection between the song and McCollum’s suicide. Osbourne was sued yet again for the same reason in 1991 (Waller v. Osbourne) by the parents of Michael Waller for $9 million, but the courts overturned that case as well.
He has also come under fire from former musicians such as Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake, and Phil Soussan for not paying them royalties and giving them credit on the albums they played on. Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake sued the Osbournes in 1986 for outstanding royalties from songs written for the Blizzard of Ozz releases, and for reinstatement of performance credits. Litigation continued in 2002 when Daisley and Kerslake (and bassist Phil Soussan) once again sued for unpaid royalties. The Osbournes responded by erasing their contributions on the original masters and re-issuing new versions with the bass and drum tracks re-recorded by Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin. Phil Soussan also brought a lawsuit against Ozzy and even got into a physical confrontation with Sharon at Randy Castillo‘s funeral.
Drugs, alcohol, and animal abuse
According to the press, Osbourne’s antics progressively reached a more dangerous point during the 1980s; his alcoholism and drug abuse continued. He later underwent a number of treatments for alcoholism and drug abuse.
After signing his first solo career record deal he came in to meet some of the people who worked at the record company. His plan was to release doves into the air to get people to notice him, but when no one noticed, he changed his plans. He grabbed a dove, bit its head off, then spat the head out. Then, with blood still dripping from his lips, a security guard came to remove him. Despite its controversy, this act has been parodied and alluded to several times throughout his career and is part of what made Ozzy Osbourne famous.
He gained further notoriety on Jan. 20, 1982, when he bit the head off a bat he thought was rubber while performing at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium (Des Moines) in Des Moines, Iowa. Rolling Stone magazine in 2004 ranked this incident number two on its list of “Rock’s Wildest Myths.” While the Rolling Stone article stated the bat was alive, the person who threw it onto the stage said it was brought to the show dead.
Osbourne admitted that, at the height of his drug addiction, he shot his family’s pets: “I was taking drugs so much I was a wreck. 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”
While on tour in Texas in 1982, drunk already at 11am, he urinated on a portion of the Alamo, while wearing future wife Sharon’s dress, while there for a photo shoot. A police officer arrested him, and Osbourne was subsequently banned from the city of San Antonio, Texas for a decade. (This citation only refers to his peeing on the Alamo, but doesn’t contain any information on his banishment)
Osbourne’s alcohol problem also came to a very serious peak in 1989 after he became violently drunk and attempted to strangle his wife/manager Sharon.
- See: Ozzy Osbourne discography
Remastering and print status of solo releases
Osbourne’s solo material (up to 1993) was remastered for CD release in August 1995.
In the wake of a lawsuit by former band members Daisley and Kerslake over unpaid royalties for songwriting credit, Osbourne’s catalogue was remastered and reissued again in spring 2002. This time, the original bass guitar and drum tracks on Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman were removed and re-recorded entirely by bassist Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves, currently of Metallica) and drummer Mike Bordin (Faith No More). The pair also played on Osbourne’s studio album, Down to Earth from 2001. Other releases, such as Speak of the Devil, The Ultimate Sin, Just Say Ozzy and Live and Loud were deleted from Osbourne’s catalogue entirely, though they are still on iTunes.
Ozzy is known for close collaboration with the guitarists of his band, and often they are/become well known musicians. Note Iommi and Osbourne both appeared at one of Black Sabbath’s reunions in 1985 (Live Aid) and 1992 (Ozzy’s first retirement concert). Technically Osbourne was in Black Sabbath with Iommi from 1999-2001, but the band were temporarily on hiatus at the time as part of a proposed breakup.
With Black Sabbath
- Tony Iommi In Sabbath with Ozzy (1968-1978, 1996-1999, 2001-present)