John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne (born 3 December 1948) is an English singer, songwriter and actor. He rose to prominence in the early 1970s as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. He was fired from Black Sabbath in 1979 and went on to have a successful solo career, releasing 11 studio albums, the first seven of which were all awarded multi-platinum certifications in the US. Osbourne has since reunited with Black Sabbath on several occasions, recording the album 13 in 2013. His longevity and success have earned him the informal title of "Godfather of Heavy Metal".
Osbourne's total album sales from his years in Black Sabbath, combined with his solo work, is over 100 million. As a member of Black Sabbath, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame as a solo artist and as a member of the band. Possessing a distinctive singing voice and as a native of Birmingham, Osbourne is known for his strong Brummie accent – he has a star on the Birmingham Walk of Stars in his hometown as well as the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards, he received the Global Icon Award. In the early 2000s, Osbourne became a reality television star, appearing as himself in the MTV reality show The Osbournes, alongside wife and manager Sharon and two of their three children, Kelly and Jack. Osbourne appeared with son Jack in the 2016 worldwide travelogue docuseries Ozzy & Jack's World Detour.
Osbourne was born in the Aston area of Birmingham, England. His mother, Lillian, was a non-observant Catholic who worked days at a factory. His father, John Thomas "Jack" Osbourne (1915–1977), worked night shifts as a toolmaker at the General Electric Company. Osbourne has three older sisters named Jean, Iris, and Gillian, and two younger brothers named Paul and Tony. The family lived in a small two-bedroom home at 14 Lodge Road in Aston. Osbourne has had the nickname "Ozzy" since primary school. Osbourne dealt with dyslexia at school. Drawn to the stage, he took part in school plays such as Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado and HMS Pinafore. As a Birmingham native, he has a strong Brummie accent.
Upon hearing their first hit single at age 14, he became a great fan of The Beatles. He credits the band's 1963 song "She Loves You" for inspiring him to become a musician. He said in the 2011 documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne that "as soon as [he] heard 'She Loves You' on the radio, [he] knew [he] wanted to be a rock star for the rest of [his] life". Osbourne left school at 15 and was employed as a construction site labourer, 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.
In late 1967, Geezer Butler formed his first band, Rare Breed, and soon recruited Osbourne to serve as vocalist. The band played two shows, then broke up. Osbourne and Butler reunited in Polka Tulk Blues, along with guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward, whose band Mythology had recently broken up. They renamed themselves Earth, but after being accidentally booked for a show instead of a different band with the same name, they decided to change their name again. They finally settled on the name Black Sabbath in August 1969, based on the film of the same name. The band had noticed how people enjoyed being frightened; inspired, the band decided to play a heavy blues style of music laced with gloomy sounds and lyrics. While recording their first album, Butler read an occult book and woke up to a dark figure at the end of his bed. Butler told Osbourne about it and together they wrote the lyrics to "Black Sabbath", their first song in a darker vein.
Despite only a modest investment from their 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, Bill Ward's dark tempo drumbeats, and topped by Osbourne's eerie vocals, early records such as their debut album Black Sabbath and Paranoid sold huge numbers, as well as getting considerable airplay. Osbourne recalls a band lament, "in those days, the band wasn't very popular with the women".
At about this time, Osbourne first met his future wife, Sharon Arden. After the unexpected success of their first album, Black Sabbath were considering her father, Don Arden, as their new manager, and Sharon was at that time working as Don's receptionist. Osbourne admits he was attracted to her immediately but assumed that "she probably thought I was a lunatic". Osbourne said years later that the best thing about eventually choosing Don Arden as manager was that he got to see Sharon regularly, though their relationship was strictly professional at that point.
Just five months after the release of Paranoid the band released Master of Reality. The album reached the top ten in both the United States and UK, and was certified gold in less than two months. In the 1980s it received platinum certification and went Double Platinum in the early 21st century. Reviews of the album were unfavourable. Lester Bangs of Rolling Stone famously dismissed Master of Reality as "naïve, simplistic, repetitive, absolute doggerel", although the very same magazine would later place the album at number 298 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, compiled in 2003. Black Sabbath's Volume 4 was released in September 1972. Critics were again dismissive of the album, yet it achieved gold status in less than a month. It was the band's fourth consecutive release to sell one million copies in the United States.
In November 1973, Black Sabbath released the critically acclaimed Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. For the first time, the band received favourable reviews in the mainstream press. Gordon Fletcher of Rolling Stone called the album "an extraordinarily gripping affair", and "nothing less than a complete success". AllMusic's Eduardo Rivadavia call the album a "masterpiece, essential to any heavy metal collection", while also claiming the band displayed "a newfound sense of finesse and maturity". The album marked the band's fifth consecutive platinum selling album in the US. Sabotage was released in July 1975. Again there were favourable reviews. Rolling Stone stated, "Sabotage is not only Black Sabbath's best record since Paranoid, it might be their best ever." AllMusic was not so favourable. They noted that "the magical chemistry that made such albums as Paranoid and Volume 4 so special was beginning to disintegrate". Technical Ecstasy, released on 25 September 1976, was also met with mixed reviews. AllMusic gives the album two stars, and notes that the band was "unravelling at an alarming rate".
In 1978, Osbourne left the band for three months to pursue interest in a solo project he called Blizzard of Ozz, a name which had been suggested by his father. Three members of the band Necromandus, who had supported Black Sabbath in Birmingham when they were called Earth, did backup for Osbourne in the studio and briefly became the first incarnation of his solo band. At the request of the other members, Osbourne rejoined Sabbath. The band spent five months at Sounds Interchange Studios in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, writing and recording what would become Never Say Die! "It took quite a long time", Iommi said. "We were getting really drugged out, doing a lot of dope. We'd go down to the sessions, and have to pack up because we were too stoned, we'd have to stop. Nobody could get anything right, we were all over the place, everybody's playing a different thing. We'd go back and sleep it off, and try again the next day."
Touring in support of Never Say Die! began in May 1978 with openers Van Halen. Reviewers called Black Sabbath's performance "tired and uninspired", in stark contrast to the "youthful" performance of Van Halen, who were touring the world for the first time. The band filmed a performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in June 1978, which was later released on DVD as Never Say Die. The final show of the tour, and Osbourne's last appearance with the band (until later reunions), was in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 11 December.
In 1979, back in the studio, tensions and conflict between band members were continually present. Osbourne recalls being asked to record his vocals over and over, and tracks being manipulated endlessly by Iommi. This was a point of contention between Osbourne and Iommi. At Iommi's insistence, and with the support of Butler and Ward, Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath on 27 April 1979. The reasons provided to him were that he was unreliable and had excessive substance abuse issues as compared to the other band members. Osbourne claims his drug use and alcohol consumption at that time was not better nor worse than that of the other band members. The band replaced him with former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio.
Conflict of a sort had existed between Iommi and Osbourne from the beginning. When responding to a 1969 flyer reading "Ozzy Zig Needs Gig- has own PA" posted in a record store, Iommi and Ward arrived at the listed address to speak with Ozzy Zig. When Iommi saw Osbourne emerge from another room of the house, he left upon discovering it was the same "pest" he knew from growing up, as he knew of and disliked Osbourne from back in their school days. Iommi had reportedly "punched out" Osbourne numerous times over the years when the singer's drunken antics had become too much to take. Iommi recalls one incident in the early 1970s in which Osbourne and Geezer Butler were fighting in a hotel room. Iommi pulled Osbourne off Butler in an attempt to break up the drunken fight, and the vocalist proceeded to turn around and take a wild swing at him. Iommi responded by knocking Osbourne unconscious with one punch to the jaw.
After leaving Black Sabbath, Osbourne was signed to Don Arden's Jet Records. Arden dispatched Sharon to Los Angeles to "look after Ozzy's needs, whatever they were", as a means of protecting his investment. Initially, Arden was hopeful that Osbourne would return to Black Sabbath, and he later attempted to convince the singer to name his new band "Son of Sabbath", which Osbourne hated. Sharon attempted to convince Osbourne to form a new supergroup with guitarist Gary Moore. In late 1979, under the management of the Ardens, Osbourne formed the band The Blizzard of Ozz, the line-up of which featured drummer Lee Kerslake (of Uriah Heep), bassist-lyricist Bob Daisley (of Rainbow and later Uriah Heep), keyboardist Don Airey (of Rainbow, and later Deep Purple), and guitarist Randy Rhoads (of Quiet Riot). The record company would eventually title the group's debut album Blizzard of Ozz credited simply under Osbourne's name, thus commencing his solo career. Co-written with Daisley and Rhoads, the album brought Osbourne considerable success on his first solo effort. Though it is generally accepted that Osbourne and Rhoads started the band, bassist Daisley later claimed that he and Osbourne formed the band in England before Rhoads officially joined. Osbourne has maintained that his original choice for bassist was Dana Strum, and that it was Strum who arranged Rhoads' audition. Blizzard of Ozz is one of the few albums amongst the 100 best-selling albums of the 1980s to have achieved multi-platinum status without the benefit of a top-40 single. As of August 1997, it had achieved quadruple platinum status according to RIAA
Osbourne's second album, Diary of a Madman, featured more songs co-written with Lee Kerslake. For his work on this album and Blizzard of Ozz, Rhoads was ranked the 85th-greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2003. This album is known for the singles "Over the Mountain" and "Flying High Again"; additionally, Osbourne explains in his autobiography that Diary is his own personal favourite album. Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo soon replaced Kerslake and Daisley in the band. Aldridge had been Osbourne's original choice as the band's drummer, but a commitment to Gary Moore made him initially unavailable. Sarzo had previously played in Quiet Riot with Rhoads, who recommended him for the position.
On 19 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. The crash was officially ruled the result of "poor judgement by the pilot in buzzing the bus and misjudging clearance of obstacles". Experiencing firsthand the horrific death of his close friend and bandmate, Osbourne fell into a deep depression. The tour was cancelled for two weeks while Osbourne, his wife-manager Sharon, and drummer Aldridge returned to Los Angeles to take stock while bassist Sarzo remained in Florida with family.
Gary Moore was the first guitarist approached to replace Rhoads, but he refused. Former Gillan guitarist Bernie Tormé replaced Rhoads once the tour resumed, though his tenure in the band would last less than one month. During an audition for guitarists in a hotel room, Osbourne selected Night Ranger's Brad Gillis to finish the tour. The tour culminated in the release of the 1982 live album Speak of the Devil, recorded at the Ritz in New York City. A live tribute album for Rhoads was also later released.
Despite the difficulties, Osbourne moved on after Rhoads' death. 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. Under contract to produce a live album, it ended up consisting entirely of Black Sabbath covers recorded with Gillis, bassist Rudy Sarzo, and drummer Tommy Aldridge. Osbourne 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."
In 1982 Osbourne appeared as lead vocalist on the Was (Not Was) pop dance track "Shake Your Head (Let's Go to Bed)". 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.
In 1983 a new guitarist was recruited to play with Osbourne. Jake E. Lee, formerly of Ratt and Rough Cutt, joined the band to record Bark at the Moon. The album, co-written with Daisley, featured Aldridge and former Rainbow keyboard player Don Airey. The album contains the fan favourite "Bark at the Moon". The music video for "Bark at the Moon" was partially filmed at the Holloway Sanitorium outside London, England. Within weeks the album became certified gold. It has sold three million copies in the US.
1986's The Ultimate Sin followed (with bassist Phil Soussan and drummer Randy Castillo), and touring behind both albums with former Uriah Heep keyboardist John Sinclair joining prior to the Ultimate Sin tour. At the time of its release, The Ultimate Sin was Osbourne's highest charting studio album. The RIAA awarded the album Platinum status on 14 May 1986, soon after its release; it was awarded Double Platinum status on 26 October 1994.
Jake E. Lee and Osbourne parted ways in 1987. Osbourne continued to struggle with chemical dependency. That year he commemorated the fifth anniversary of Rhoads' death with Tribute, live recordings from 1981 that had gone unreleased for years. In 1988 Osbourne appeared in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years and told the director, Penelope Spheeris, that "sobriety fucking sucks". Meanwhile, Osbourne found Zakk Wylde, who was the most enduring replacement for Rhoads to date. Together they recorded No Rest for the Wicked with Castillo on drums, Sinclair on keyboards, and Daisley co-writing lyrics and playing bass. The subsequent tour saw Osbourne reunited with erstwhile Black Sabbath bandmate Geezer Butler on bass. A live EP (entitled Just Say Ozzy) featuring Geezer was released two years later. Butler continued to tour with Osbourne for the subsequent four tours, and was a major stage presence throughout. 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. In 1989 Osbourne performed at the Moscow Music Peace Festival.
While successful as a heavy metal act through the 1980s, Osbourne sustained commercial success into the 1990s, starting with 1991's No More Tears, featuring the song "Mama, I'm Coming Home". The album 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. Osbourne was awarded a Grammy Award for the track "I Don't Want to Change the World" from Live & Loud, for Best Metal Performance of 1994.
Wagener also mixed the live album Live & Loud released on 28 June 1993. At the time, it was to be Osbourne's final album. The album went platinum four 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" (which was to be short-lived). It was called "No More Tours", a pun on his No More Tears album. Prior to the tour Alice in Chains' Mike Inez took over on bass and Kevin Jones on keyboards as Sinclair was touring with The Cult. Osbourne's entire CD catalogue was remastered and reissued in 1995.
In 1995 Osbourne released Ozzmosis and returned to touring, dubbing his concert performances "The Retirement Sucks Tour". The album reached number 4 on the US Billboard 200. The RIAA certified the album gold and platinum in that same year, and double platinum in April 1999. The album features fan favourites like "Perry Mason", "Ghost Behind My Eyes", "Thunder Underground", and "See You on the Other Side".
The line-up on Ozzmosis was Wylde, Butler (who had just quit Black Sabbath again) and former Bad English, Steve Vai and Hardline drummer Deen Castronovo, now in Journey. Keyboards were played by Rick Wakeman and producer Michael Beinhorn. The tour maintained Butler and Castronovo and saw Sinclair return, but a major line-up change was the introduction of former David Lee Roth guitarist Joe Holmes. Wylde was considering an offer to join Guns N' Roses. Unable to wait for a decision on Wylde's departure, Osbourne replaced him. In early 1996, Butler and Castronovo left. Inez and Randy Castillo (Lita Ford, Mötley Crüe) filled in. Ultimately, Faith No More's Mike Bordin and former Suicidal Tendencies and future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo joined on drums and bass respectively. A greatest hits package, The Ozzman Cometh, was issued in 1997.
Black Sabbath (1970)
Master of Reality (1971)
Vol. 4 (1972)
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)
Technical Ecstasy (1976)
Never Say Die! (1978)
Blizzard of Ozz (1980)
Diary of a Madman (1981)
Bark at the Moon (1983)
The Ultimate Sin (1986)
No Rest for the Wicked (1988)
No More Tears (1991)
Down to Earth (2001)
Under Cover (2005)
Black Rain (2007)
Ordinary Man (2020)