Born John Osbourne on December 3, 1948, in Birmingham, England; first wife's name, Thelma; marriage ended; married Sharon Arden, 1982; children: (first marriage) Louis, Jessica, (second marriage) Aimee, Kelly, Jack. Addresses: Record company--Epic Records/Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211, website: http://www.epicrecords.com. Website--Ozzy Osbourne Official Website: http://www.ozzy.com.
As the lead vocalist with Black Sabbath in the 1970s and throughout his solo career that began in the 1980s, Ozzy Osbourne has been one of the top performers in the rock 'n' roll field known as heavy metal. With a reputation for bizarre acts and occult lyrics, he has both delighted fans and outraged critics. With the help and support of his wife and manager, Sharon, Osbourne has continually reinvented himself into the new millennium with projects including an ongoing summer festival called Ozzfest, and a wildly successful television series, The Osbournes, on cable television's MTV.
Osbourne hails from Aston, a blue-collar section of Birmingham, England. He credits/blames his strange behavior to heredity, coming from a family in which lunacy was not uncommon. Osbourne had a troubled youth, attempting suicide on several occasions beginning as far back as age 14. His lifelong battle with drugs and alcohol began in his teens and eventually caused him to enter rehab facilities more than a dozen times. After spending two months in Winson Green Prison for burglary, he worked for a short period in a slaughterhouse.
Formed Black Sabbath
In January of 1969 Osbourne formed Black Sabbath with guitarist Tommy Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward. The group was originally called Polka Tulk and then Black Sabbath Earth before settling on Black Sabbath, the title of a Boris Karloff film. Although critics slammed the group, they became one of the first successful British bands patterned after the Led Zeppelin style of crunching guitars and thunderous beats. Others, including Uriah Heep and Mountain, soon followed.
Osbourne sang vocals on seven Sabbath LPs, as tunes like "Paranoid," and "War Pigs," and "Iron Man" soon became metal classics. Osbourne claims to have been heavily into drugs, mainly LSD, during this period and his lyrics revolved around black magic and the mystical world. In Rock 100 he stated, "We're all just simple, ordinary people who became ... this." Osbourne left Black Sabbath on unfriendly terms in 1978 and was replaced by Dave Walker.
A few years later Osbourne signed a solo contract with Jet Records and began assembling a new band to support him. The group, Blizzard of Ozz, included Lee Kerslake on drums, Bob Daisley on bass (both later joined Uriah Heep) and a young guitarist named Randy Rhoads. Unfairly labeled as an Eddie Van Halen clone, Rhoads was a brilliant axeman in his own right. He proved to be innovative and imaginative in his use of the vibrato arm and fingerboard tapping and employed classical techniques as well.
Osbourne released his debut LP, Blizzard of Ozz, in 1981 and enjoyed successful sales thanks in part to Rhoads's unique work on the tune "Crazy Train." At a Los Angeles meeting of Columbia record executives, Osbourne pulled his now-famous stunt of biting the head off a dove. Delighted with the shocked reaction he had received, he tried it again a few months later at a Des Moines, Iowa, concert with a bat. It backfired, however, as the bat in turn bit Osbourne, who had to undergo a series of painful rabies shots.
Diary of a Madman (taken from the title of Aleister Crowley's autobiography and later used for Osbourne's own story) was also released in 1981 and the single "You Can't Kill Rock" received heavy airplay. Once again Rhoads's pyrotechnics were highlighted as "Flying High Again" sent future metalheads to their woodsheds trying to learn his guitar licks. Tragically, just 25-years old, the promising guitarist's life ended on March 19, 1982, in Orlando, Florida, when the airplane he was in crashed into Osbourne's tour bus. "Randy was so unique that I don't think people will ever fully realize what a talent that guy was--not only in rock and roll, but in every other field...," Osbourne told Guitar Player. "[H]e was the most dedicated musician I ever met in my life. He was a master of his art." Osbourne's personal life entered a new phase when he married his manager, Sharon Arden, in 1982. Sharon is often referred to as the woman behind the band and the reason for Osbourne's continued success.
After the loss of Rhoads, Osbourne revamped his entire band by bringing in guitarist Brad Gillis (later of Night Ranger), bass player Rudi Sarzo, and Tommy Aldridge behind the drums. In 1982 the double-live LP Speak of the Devil, which included versions of older Black Sabbath material, was released. Gillis was replaced by yet another hot new guitarist, Jake E. Lee, for 1983's Bark at the Moon, which eventually reached the platinum status. The single "So Tired" was a top 30 hit back in Osbourne's homeland of England. In May of 1983 the group was one of the many top live acts to play at California's US Festival.
Reunited with Black Sabbath
Osbourne put aside his personal differences with former bandmates of Black Sabbath for a reunion gig at the July 1985 Live Aid concert in Philadelphia. Four years later Osbourne would donate a sizable chunk of the proceeds from another Philadelphia performance to AIDS research. Despite his obviously weird imagination, even Osbourne was shocked by its impact. "No one could have ever dreamed up a more insidious and evil disease," he said in the Detroit Free Press.
Meanwhile Osbourne was battling problems of his own. He entered both the Betty Ford Center and Hazelden Foundation in his continuing bouts with alcoholism. Although he was eventually cleared, Osbourne also faced charges after a California teen, John McCollum, took his own life after alledgedly listening to Osbourne's "Suicide Solution" from the Blizzard LP. He continued recording and in 1986 released the highly successful Ultimate Sin album. A single from the LP, "Shot in the Dark," went on to break the British top 20. Osbourne paid homage to Rhoads in 1987 by issuing Tribute, containing previously unreleased tracks featuring the guitarist. Osbourne had his first top-ten hit single in 1988 with "Close My Eyes Forever," a duet with Lita Ford. Osbourne discovered Zakk Wylde, his newest guitar sensation, around this time. Wylde played on 1989's No Rest For the Wicked LP and continued to tour and record with Osbourne on subsequent albums.
Osbourne's drug and alcohol addiction caused much turmoil in his private life during the late 1980s, culminating in his arrest after he tried to strangle his wife while inebriated in 1989. He spent three months in prison following the incident. He and Sharon reconciled soon after, and Osbourne returned to the studio to record No More Tears. He decided to retire after going on a final tour in order to spend more time with his family. A double album released in 1993, Live and Loud, would be Osbourne's only release between 1991 and 1995. Osbourne won his first Grammy Award in 1993, the award for Best Metal Performance with Vocals for "I Don't Want to Change the World." He still struggles with addiction, admitting to Entertainment Weekly, "the only time I really feel comfortable in my own skin is when I'm drinking or taking pills."
Osbourne came out of retirement in 1995 with a new studio album, Ozzmosis. Despite terrible critical reviews (Entertainment Weekly called it "a parody of the most over-inflated opera") the album went triple platinum before the year was over. Then, Sharon approached the organizers of the then-popular summer festival Lollapalooza in 1995 to see about getting Ozzy a spot on the bill. The festival organizers turned her down, thinking Osbourne wasn't a big enough draw for the Lollapalooza crowd. Sharon's reaction, as reported in Entertainment Weekly, was, "Fine. F*** you. I'll go do my own thing." She gathered 16 metal bands for two sold-out shows in Phoenix and Los Angeles that summer, and Ozzfest was born. The festival has grown in popularity with each passing year, taking in more than $20 million in revenue in 2000. "Ozzfest was a brilliant move because the tour connects Ozzy to fans who are into younger new metal and hard-rock bands," Pollstar's Gary Bongiovanni told Entertainment Weekly.
Black Sabbath, including Osbourne, reunited for an extended tour with Ozzfest in 1997. The following year, they released a live album, Reunion. Osbourne also found himself collaborating with an unlikely artist--rapper Busta Rhymes--with whom he recorded a remake of Black Sabbath's classic "Iron Man." Black Sabbath continued touring with Ozzfest in 1999 and again, possibly for the last time, in 2001. They won a Grammy Award in 1999 for Best Metal Performance for "Iron Man."
In 2001, Osbourne released Down to Earth, his first studio album since 1995. That year, his family appeared on an episode of MTV's Cribs. MTV executives were so impressed with the reaction to the episode that they approached Sharon about taking part in another project. This dinner meeting would eventually lead to the wildly successful series The Osbournes. Osbourne's reputation went from bat-biting madman to doting, if slightly batty, father. Entertainment Weekly called his approach to parenting a "modern, lovable old-codger brand of fatherhood." Ozzy and Sharon became poster parents for a new generation, as Newsweek International noted. "It quickly became apparent that Ozzy and Sharon are caring, responsible parents, who often act in a manner that would make family-values trumpeter ... Dan Quayle proud."
The success of the television show--with a draw of more than six million viewers on a network that averages around 500,000--brought a new sort of fame to the Osbourne clan, including son Jack and daughter Kelly. Ozzy and Sharon attended the White House Correspondents Dinner, meeting President George W. Bush during the event. Britain's Queen Elizabeth personally invited Osbourne to play at her Golden Jubilee celebration in 2002, and Ozzy was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that year.
The show has proven a success in every sense--critical, popular, and financial--and won an Emmy Award in 2002 for Best Reality Show. Ozzy may be the only one who doesn't see its appeal. "I don't bloody understand why people think it's funny, me taking out the trash. I mean, I'm a guy. I don't have a ... trash roadie," he said in Entertainment Weekly.
With Osbourne's popularity at its greatest height ever, and no end to the phenomenon of The Osbournes in sight, tragedy struck the family. Sharon was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on July 1, 2002, and underwent surgery to remove a foot of her colon just two days later. Doctors discovered later that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, and Sharon was started on a course of chemotherapy. The family remained optimistic about her recovery, and coverage of her treatment was to be included in the second season of The Osbournes.
Sharon's business sense and drive combined with Ozzy's talent and performances have made the two an unstoppable pair. The Osbournes, as the Economist described them, are "supremely dysfunctional yet curiously likeable," and this may be their biggest feat yet. Ozzy Osbourne went from near oblivion in the mid-1990s to pop culture icon in the twenty-first century, and he has proven over and over again that he has what it takes to make himself relevant to pop culture and the music industry.
by Calen D. Stone
Ozzy Osbourne's Career
Singer, songwriter, 1969-; spent two months in prison for burglary and worked for a time in a slaughterhouse before forming rock band Black Sabbath (name originally Polka Tulk, later changed to Black Sabbath Earth, and finally, Black Sabbath), 1969; lead singer, 1969-78; solo artist, 1981-; debuted hit television show, The Osbournes, on MTV, 2002.
Ozzy Osbourne's Awards
Grammy Awards, Best Metal Performance with Vocal for "I Don't Want to Change the World," 1993, and Best Metal Performance (with Black Sabbath) for "Iron Man," 1999; Emmy Award, Best Reality Show for The Osbournes, 2002.
- Selected discography
- Blizzard of Ozz , Jet, 1981.
- Diary of a Madman , Jet, 1981.
- Speak of the Devil , Jet, 1982.
- Bark at the Moon , Epic, 1983.
- The Ultimate Sin , Epic, 1986.
- Tribute , Epic, 1987.
- No Rest for the Wicked , Epic, 1989.
- Just Say Ozzy (live), Epic, 1990.
- No More Tears , Epic, 1991.
- Ozzmosis , Epic, 1995.
- The Ozzman Cometh , Epic, 1997.
- Down to Earth , Sony, 2001.
- With Black Sabbath
- Black Sabbath , Warner Bros., 1970.
- Paranoid , Warner Bros., 1970.
- Master of Reality , Warner Bros., 1971.
- Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 , Warner Bros., 1972.
- Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath , Warner Bros., 1973.
- Sabotage , Warner Bros., 1975.
- Technical Ecstasy , Warner Bros., 1976.
- Reunion , Sony, 1998.
October 14, 2003: Osbourne canceled a planned European tour after revealing that he is being treated for a nervous tremor and needs time to recover. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, October 15, 2003.
December 9, 2003: Osbourne suffered serious but treatable injuries in an accident with his all-terrain vehicle on the grounds of his home in England. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, December 9, 2003.
December 14, 2003: Osbourne made British chart history by scoring a number-one single, a duet with his daughter Kelly titled "Changes," 33 years after his first hit. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, December 17, 2003.
December 2003: Osbourne was released from intensive care and moved to a private clinic two weeks after his near-fatal ATV accident; he is expected to be in recovery for six months. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, December 23, 2003.
January 9, 2004: Osbourne announced the cancellation of his Britain tour in order to fully recover from his accident on an auto-terrain vehicle which occurred in December of 2003. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, January 9, 2004.
November 1, 2005: Osbourne's album, Under Cover, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bbcom/reviews/album_review_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001478240, December 3, 2005.
- Christgau, Robert, Christgau's Record Guide, Ticknor & Fields, 1981.
- The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Salamander, 1988.
- Dalton, David, and Lenny Kay, Rock 100, Grosset & Dunlap, 1977.
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, compiled by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, Harmony, 1977.
- Lazell, Barry, with Dafydd Rees and Luke Crampton, editors, Rock Movers and Shakers, Banson, 1989.
- Nite, Norm N., and Charles Crespo, Rock On, Volume 3, Harper, 1985.
- Marsh, Dave, and John Swenson, editors, The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Rolling Stone Press/Random House, 1979.
- Pareles, Jon, and Patricia Romanowski, editors, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Rolling Stone Press/Summit, 1983.
- Detroit Free Press, May 1, 1989.
- Economist, April 20, 2002.
- Entertainment Weekly, November 24, 1995; September 1, 2000; April 19, 2002.
- Guitar Player, November 1982; April 1983.
- Newsweek International, June 3, 2002.
- People, July 10, 1989; July 29, 2002.