John Michael Osbourne, 3 December 1948, Aston, Birmingham, England. In January 1979 this highly individual and by now infamous vocalist and songwriter left Black Sabbath, a band whose image and original musical direction he had helped to shape. His own band was set up with Lee Kerslake, formerly of Uriah Heep, on drums, Rainbows Bob Daisley (bass) and Randy Rhoads (b. Randall William Rhoads, 6 December 1956, Santa Monica, California, USA, d. 19 March 1982), fresh from Quiet Riot, on guitar. Rhoads innovative playing ability was much in evidence on the debut, Blizzard Of Ozz. By the time of a second album, Daisley and Kerslake had left to be replaced by Pat Travers drummer Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo (bass). Throughout his post-Black Sabbath career, Osbourne has courted publicity, most famously in 1982 when he had to undergo treatment for rabies following an onstage incident when he bit off the head of a bat. In the same year, his immensely talented young guitarist, Rhoads, was killed in an air crash. In came Brad Gillis but, so close was Rhoads personal as well as musical relationship to Osbourne, many feared he would never be adequately replaced.
A live album that included Black Sabbath material, Speak Of The Devil, was released later in 1982. Following a tour that saw Sarzo and Gillis walk out, Osbourne was forced to rethink the line-up of his band in 1983 as Daisley rejoined, along with guitarist Jake E. Lee. Aldridge left following the release of Bark At The Moon, and was replaced by renowned virtuoso drummer Carmine Appice (b. 15 December 1946, Staten Island, New York, USA). This combination was to be short-lived, however, Randy Castillo replacing Appice, and Phil Soussan taking on the bass guitar. Daisley appeared on No Rest For The Wicked, although Sabbath bass player Geezer Butler played on the subsequent live dates. The album also featured talented young guitarist and songwriter Zakk Wylde (b. Jeffrey Phillip Wiedlant, 14 January 1967, Bayonne, New Jersey, USA), who would form an important part of the Osbourne set-up over the following years.
The late 80s were a trying time for Osbourne. He went on trial in America for allegedly using his lyrics to incite youngsters to commit suicide; he was eventually cleared of these charges. His wife, Sharon Osbourne (daughter of Don Arden), also became his manager, and helped Osbourne to overcome the alcoholism that was the subject of much of his work. His lyrics, however, continued to deal with the grimmest of subjects, including the agony of insanity. In later years Osbourne has kept to more contemporary issues, rejecting to a certain extent the satanic, werewolf image he constructed around himself during the early 80s. In March 1989, he enjoyed a US Top 10 hit with a duet with Lita Ford, Close My Eyes Forever. He embarked on a farewell tour in 1992, but broke four bones in his foot which inhibited his performances greatly. He also donated $20, 000 to the Daughters Of The Republic Of Texas appeal to help restore the Alamo, and performed his first concert in the city of San Antonio since being banned for urinating on a wall of the monument in 1982.
Predictably, neither retirement nor atonement sat too comfortably with the man, and by late 1994 he was announcing the imminent release of a new solo album, recorded in conjunction with Steve Vai. He also teamed up with Therapy? to sing lead vocals on the track Iron Man for the Black Sabbath tribute album, Black Nativity. Far less likely was his pairing with Miss Piggy of The Muppet Show on Born To Be Wild, for a bizarre Muppets compilation album. He also confessed that his original partner on his 1992 Don Was -produced duet with actress Kim Basinger, Shake Your Head, was Madonna, although he had not actually recognized her. Other strange couplings included one with the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly and the popular UK boxer Frank Bruno on the Urpney Song, written by Mike Batt for the cartoon series Dreamstone.
Osbournes 1995 release Ozzmosis was one of the strongest of his career, and was a major commercial success. The line-up on the album was Geezer Butler (bass), Rick Wakeman (keyboards), Wylde (guitar), and Deen Castronovo (drums). Osbourne subsequently inaugurated the Ozz-Fest, a heavy metal tour package featuring himself and other hard rock bands. The tour proved to be a huge success and remains an ongoing and lucrative concern. At the end of the 90s Osbourne also rejoined the original line-up of Black Sabbath for a series of highly successful live shows. His first studio album of the new millennium, Down To Earth, was released in 2001. He became a household figure the following year when his dysfunctional family life was featured on the MTV reality TV show, The Osbournes. This endearing 10-part series garnered some of the channels highest viewing figures. A second and third series quickly followed which detailed, among other things, Sharons fight against cancer and the attempts of two of their children, Kelly Osbourne and Jack, to launch music careers of their own. In December 2003, Ozzy Osbourne was badly injured in a quad bike crash at his estate in Buckhinghamshire, England. Shortly afterwards his duet with daughter Kelly, Changes, debuted at the top of the UK singles chart. A collection of cover versions followed in 2005 and a new studio album in 2007.
Osbourne is one hard rocker who has tried every excess known and has survived. Amazingly, his work continues to sound inspired and exciting.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.