John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne (born December 3, 1948) is an English singer-songwriter, whose career has spanned five decades. Osbourne rose to prominence as lead vocalist of pioneering British heavy metal band Black Sabbath, and eventually achieved a multi-platinum solo career between the early 1980s and mid 1990s which revolutionized the heavy metal genre. As a result he is known as the "Godfather of Heavy Metal" and because of some of his material, the "Prince of Darkness." In the early 2000s, his career as a celebrity hit a new zenith when he became a star in his own reality show, The Osbournes, alongside wife/manager Sharon and two of their three 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, England. 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 Iommi, after he auditioned for 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. They later learned of another travelling band of the same name. One day during rehearsals, the band noticed people queueing 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.
Main article: Black Sabbath
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 substance 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 Arden. The first line-up of the band featured drummer Lee Kerslake (of Uriah Heep), bassist/lyricist Bob Daisley (of Rainbow and later Uriah Heep), keyboardist Don Airey 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, Osbourne 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.
On March 19, 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 piloted by Andrew Aycock (the band's tour bus driver) 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, grazed a tree, and crashed into the attached garage of a nearby mansion bursting into flames, killing Rhoads, 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 depression. The record company gave Osbourne a break from performing to mourn for his late band member, but Osbourne 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, Osbourne selected Brad Gillis, (who went on to be one of two guitarists in Night Ranger) to finish the tour. 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 for Rhoads 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 an August 2008 Ozzy was interviewed with Total Guitar Magazine Osbourne 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."
Birth name John Michael Osbourne
Born 3 December 1948 (age 61)
Aston, Birmingham, West Midlands, England
Genres Heavy metal
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Years active 1960s–present
Labels Epic, CBS, Jet
Associated acts Black Sabbath, Kelly Osbourne, Black Label Society