Early CareerOzzy Osbourne, who earned his nickname in his youth, sought a career as a rock singer after hearing the Beatles on the radio, in hopes that it would lift him out of his hard-scrabble working-class existence, in which he had some scrapes with the law. Osbourne slowly began to realize his ambitions in 1967; after filling in on vocals for a band called The Music Machine, he landed the singer's duties in an outfit called The Approach, playing R&B tunes in a church basement. Personal differences led Ozzy to split with the group, however, and thanks in part to the advantage of owning his own P.A. equipment, his next gig was with a group called Rare Breed, where he met and played with future Black Sabbath bandmate, bassist Terence "Geezer" Butler. Rare Breed did not last long, but Osbourne's collaboration with Butler did; in late 1968, Butler was invited to form a new group with guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward, both formerly of a fairly successful local group called Mythology. At Butler's urgings, Osbourne was brought on board, along with saxophonist Alan Clarke and another guitar player, Jim Phillips, to form the Polka Tulk Blues Band. Iommi's style of guitar playing did not mesh well with Phillips's, however, nor with Clarke's saxophone. Polka Tulk disbanded, to reform almost immediately as a four-piece consisting of Osbourne, Iommi, Butler, and Ward.
Black SabbathBlack Sabbath met with swift and enduring success; their early records such as their self-titled debut, Paranoid and Master of Reality in particular are considered heavy metal canon, and selections from Ozzy's Sabbath days have featured prominently in his solo performances. The rigors of touring and financial success combined to lead some of the band members to drug and alcohol abuse, including Osbourne. Nevertheless, the group remained a steadily successful act for over eight years. Over the duration, however, Iommi began to take the band's music in a more progressive and experimental direction, to Osbourne's distaste. Osbourne left the group briefly after the band's 1976 effort Technical Ecstasy, and Sabbath went so far as to begin writing and recording with a new singer. Ozzy returned however, to record and tour behind 1978's Never Say Die, after which he left the group again in 1979, to be replaced by Ronnie James Dio. Depressed, his drug and alcohol abuse continued. He divorced his first wife, Thelma, and developed bipolar disorder. Undaunted, Osbourne attempted to launch a solo career, and met with considerable success on his very first effort.
Sharon and RandyBy his own account, Ozzy's saving graces were the woman who would become his wife and manager, Sharon Arden (daughter of his first manager, Don Arden), and a young guitarist named Randy Rhoads from the band Quiet Riot. Like Edward Van Halen, Rhoads was one of the most influential rock guitarists of his generation, and for similar reasons: both players combined a high degree of technical proficiency on the instrument, a fusion of classically-inspired and blues-oriented melodic ideas in improvisation, and a sense of showmanship that kept audiences engaged during performances. Moreover, Rhoads was willing to compose music that stayed within the rock and metal genres Osbourne was comfortable with. Upon this solid foundation, Osbourne produced two studio albums (Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman) with Rhoads, bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake. The live act, which substituted bass player Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldrige, became known for controversial production decisions involving raw meat and dead or fake animals, which led to much negative press.
MisbehaviourAccording to press accounts, Osbourne's antics progressively worsened during the 1980s, his alcohol and drug abuse continuing. He famously bit off the head of a dove during a meeting with his newly signed record company, CBS — though it has been speculated that this was a calculated stunt meant to intimidate the label executives into giving Osbourne more favorable contractual terms. Ozzy was also hospitalized for rabies vaccinations after biting the head off of a stunned bat (which he later claimed to have thought was a rubber toy) thrown on stage by a fan. He was arrested after urinating on the Alamo while wearing one of his wife's dresses, for which he was banned from San Antonio, Texas for the next 10 years. He later underwent a number of treatments for alcoholism and drug abuse.
In March 1982, while in Florida for the Diary of A Madman tour, a light aircraft carrying Rhoads crashed while performing low passes over the band's tour bus. The pilot (also the tour bus driver) clipped the parked bus and crashed into a nearby house, killing himself, Rhoads, and the band's tour hairdresser. Osbourne subsequently fell into a deep depression, compounded by the death of his father.
Recovery, Or Not?During the 1980s and 1990s, Osbourne's career was an effort on two fronts: continuing to make music without Rhoads, and getting clean. Rhoads's first replacement was Bernie Torme (who reportedly could not cope with the pressures of live performance, and who never recorded with Ozzy), followed by Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, who filled in for an album called Speak of the Devil. This live title, known in the United Kingdom as Talk of the Devil, was originally planned to consist of live recordings from 1981, primarily of Ozzy's solo material, but after Rhoads's death, Osbourne changed his mind, and the album ended up consisting entirely of Ozzy's Black Sabbath material, recorded with Gillis, Sarzo, and Aldridge.
Jake E. Lee, formerly of Rough Cutt, was a more successful recruit than Torme, recording 1983's Bark at the Moon (with Daisley, Aldridge, and keyboard player Don Airey) and 1986's The Ultimate Sin (with bassist Phil Soussan and drummer Randy Castillo) and touring behind both albums.
Meanwhile, Ozzy was becoming involved in a legal battle of his own. In late 1986, he was the target in the first of a series of lawsuits brought against him, alleging that one of his songs, "Suicide Solution", drove two teenagers to commit suicide because of its subliminal lyrics. Ozzy would ultimately prevail in all of the suits, which the judges would basically rule that Ozzy cannot be held accountable for a listener's actions. Soon after, Ozzy publicly acknowledged he wrote Suicide Solution about his friend, AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott, who died from alcohol abuse, and that alcohol as a solution to one's problems is not the answer (hence the song's title).
Jake E. Lee and Osbourne parted ways in 1987, however, reportedly due to musical differences. Ozzy continued to struggle with his chemical dependencies, and commemorated the fifth anniversary of Rhoads's death with Tribute, the live recordings from 1981 that had gone unreleased for years. Excellently recorded, the album cemented Rhoads's legendary stature as an imaginative and talented musician. Meanwhile, Ozzy found his most enduring replacement for Rhoads to date, a guitarist named Zakk Wylde, plucked from a New Jersey bar. Wylde joined Ozzy for his 1988 effort, No Rest for the Wicked, in which Castillo remained on drums and Daisley returned to 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.
Commercial successWhile quite successful as a heavy metal act in the 1980s, Osbourne began to enjoy much broader commercial success in 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 pen much of Ozzy's solo material, instead of relying solely upon the recording ensemble to write and arrange the music. Yet another live album followed in 1993, Live and Loud. 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 catalog 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.
Ozzy's biggest financial success of the 1990s was a venture named Ozzfest, created by his wife Sharon and managed loosely by his son Jack. Ozzfest was a quick hit with metal fans, spurring groups like Incubus and Papa Roach to broad exposure and commercial success. Some acts even had the pleasure to share the bill with a reformed, yet much older Black Sabbath.
Osbourne's first album of new studio material in 7 years, 2001's Down to Earth met with only mediocre success, as did its live followup, 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. The bass guitar and drum tracks from Osbourne's first two albums were re-recorded entirely, and the original versions (which featured Daisley and Kerslake) were dropped. At least two titles, Speak of the Devil and The Ultimate Sin, were permitted to go out of print entirely.