AKA John Michael Osbourne
Birthplace: Birmingham, England
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Singer, TV Personality
Executive summary: Black Sabbath
The fourth of six children born to Jack and Lillian Osbourne, John Michael Osbourne was raised the poor, working class district of Aston in Birmingham, where his family lived in a small, two-bedroom house with no indoor plumbing, and John shared a single bed with all of his five siblings. His parents alternated their work schedules, his mother spending her days on a circuit assembly line in an automobile factory and his father building tools in a steel plant at night. Money was always scarce, and by his 15th year John (by now re-christened "Ozzy" by his schoolmates) was compelled to drop out of school and find a job. Unrewarding stints working as a plumber's assistant and dispatching cows in a slaughterhouse led to a position testing car horns at the factory where his mother was employed; funds remained scarce, however, and the enterprising young lad soon decided to supplement his income with acts of burglary. Several visits to Winson Green Prison followed.
Prior to leaving school Ozzy had performed with a band called The Black Panthers, and his time in jail made him re-consider a career in music as better choice than his would-be career as a burglar. His search for a band led to brief memberships in the local acts Approach and Music Machine before he joined with guitarist Geezer Butler to create Rare Breed. Rare Breed only played two shows before becoming disillusioned, but the situation was soon remedied by the arrival of two members of another recently-dissolved local band: Tony Iommi and Bill Ward, who had moved back to Birmingham after earning a small following for themselves in Carlisle under the name Mythology. Iommi was initially hesitant to throw his lot in with Ozzy (whom he had known in school and disliked), but at Ward's urging all four decided to join forces -- at first with a sax and slide guitar player added into the mix, but trimmed back to a four-piece soon afterwards.
Osbourne dubbed his new band Polka Tulk Blues, after a Pakistani clothing store; this was later shortened to simply Polka Tulk and then abandoned entirely in favor of Earth. Still essentially a blues band, the four began to adopt a heavier sound influenced by the music of Cream and Blue Cheer. Inspired by the occult novels of Dennis Wheatley and the horror film Black Sabbath (1963), Butler encouraged the other to move even further in this direction, penning an apocalyptic-themed song that borrowed its title from the aformentioned Mario Bava movie. The existence of another UK-based Earth eventually prompted the four to adopt Black Sabbath as a band name as well. Playing wherever they could throughout 1969, Black Sabbath labored steadily to establish a reputation; label interest proved elusive, but after numerous rejections manager Jim Simpson finally secured a modest deal with the recently-formed Vertigo label in January of 1970, and a hastily-recorded eponymous debut was released the following month.
After the release of Black Sabbath, the fortunes of the band began to take a much more positive turn. The record was picked up by Warner Brothers in the States, introducing the music to a larger and even more receptive audience. A second full-length effort later that same year (Paranoid) expanded this sudden popularity even further, with the title single -- a track which was a last-minute addition recorded in order to pad out the album's length -- positioning the band in the US top 20 and at number 4 in the UK charts. A schedule of constant touring on both sides of the Atlantic was undertaken, and would remain the primary lifestyle of Osbourne and his bandmates for many years to come. The next two albums, Masters of Reality (1971) and Vol. 4 (1972) maintained Sabbath's status at the forefront of the heavy rock scene (only later to be labelled "heavy metal"), while also allowing for its members to freely indulge in their various chemical appetites. The positive and negative aspects of these experiences would both find expression in tracks such as Sweet Leaf and Snowblind.
Although their popularity continued to broaden as a result of the increasingly ambitious nature of their recorded output -- Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973) and Sabotage (1975) -- and their live show had placed them among the leading stadium rock acts of the time, the mid-70s ushered in a period of considerable turmoil for Black Sabbath. An attempt to free themselves from the questionable dealings of their second management -- with litigation brought against them by their first manager Jim Simpson still pending -- punctured the insular world of excessive consumption that the four members had built around themselves, and forced them to re-consider and re-organize their business dealings. Aggravated by these other problems, tensions between Ozzy and Iommi were also becoming more severe -- the singer's unreliability worsening with his escalating drug use and the guitarist's ego prompting him to insist that he occupy center stage in place of the band's flamboyant frontman.
The internal strife brewing in the band finally reached a critical point after the release of 1976's Technical Ecstacy. Dissatisfied with the direction the band's music was taking and distraught over the death of his father, Osbourne made the decision to leave Sabbath following a world tour, and contacted Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes with the idea of starting a new band. Sabbath enlisted former Savoy Brown vocalist Dave Walker as a replacement, but early into the recording of the next album (Never Say Die, 1978) Ozzy returned and much of the material developed with Walker was abandoned. The reunion proved to be short-lived, however, and in 1979 the singer was expelled from the line-up as result of his undependable behavior. By this point, the popularity of band had waned substantially, and both Technical Ecstacy and Never Say Die were given poor commercial and critical receptions.
In the aftermath of his exit from Sabbath, Ozzy plunged even deeper into depression and drug abuse. It was his manager's daughter Sharon Arden (whom he would marry in 1982) that finally motivated him to get his career moving again, and with her assistance he assembled the new band Law with former Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads, bassist Bob Daisley and longtime Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake. The band's name was soon changed to The Blizzard of Ozz, a modest deal with the CBS subsidiary Jet Records was secured, and an album credited to Ozzy Osbourne but titled The Blizzard of Ozz was released in 1980. Much to everyone's surprise, the album was an immediate success; a second effort Diary of a Madman (1981) was quickly recorded and released, placing Ozzy in the US top 20 and pushing his commercial success beyond that of his former band. His personal notoriety was given a similar boost, due in large part to an incident where he bit off the head of bat thown on stage during a concert (apparently believing it to be a rubber toy). This forward momentum was abruptly stalled in March of 1982 when Rhoads was killed in a bizarre plane crash, the pilot of the private craft having lost control during an attempt to dive-bomb his ex-wife.
Despite the numerous personnel changes that followed, Ozzy's career resumed its upward climb in the early 80s with the live collection Speak of the Devil (1982) and his third studio effort Bark at the Moon (1983) -- both of which entered the US top 20 and achieved platinum sales. The singer's alcoholism remained a serious problem, however, and Sharon was sometimes forced to resort to extreme measures to prevent him from drinking (at the time of his arrest for pissing on the Alamo in 1982, he was wearing one of her dresses because she had removed all of his clothes from his hotel room in attempt to keep him from going out for liquor). His personal life was further complicated in 1986 when a lawsuit was filed against him by parents who claimed that his music was responsible for the suicides of their two teenage boys; the suits were ultimately dismissed, while the press surrounding the case added to Ozzy's already considerable notoriety. Two other families would pursue a similar legal action against him later in the decade.
It would take another three years for Ozzy's next release The Ultimate Sin (1986) to materialize; despite the singer's low opinion of the results and a poor critical reception, the album (and its lead single A Shot in the Dark) still fared extremely well commercially -- although sales dropped off much faster than had been the case with his previous efforts. That same year Ozzy spent three weeks at the Betty Ford Clinic in yet another attempt to overcome his alchoholism. Tribute -- a collection featuring and dedicated to his late guitarist Rhodes -- was released in 1987, followed a year later by No Rest For The Wicked with new lead guitarist Zakk Wylde. The associated tour also included Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler, who continued to perform as a member of Ozzy's live band into the early 1990s (a full reunion of the original Black Sabbath line-up had previously taken place at the Live Aid benefit festival, staged at Wembley Stadium in London in 1985).
Ozzy's final recorded offerings of the 1980s took the form of guest appearances on releases by Lita Ford (Close My Eyes Forever from the album Lita, 1988) and Gary Moore (Led Clones and Speak for Yourself from the album After the War, 1989). His first release in the 90s would be the Just Say Ozzy live EP (1990), followed by the full-length studio album No More Tears in 1991; the stress of constant touring and his ongoing struggle to overcome his addictions prompted the singer to label the subsequent tour No More Tours and announce that he would be retiring from live performance upon its conclusion. To commemorate the event, a temporary version of Black Sabbath featuring Judas Priest singer Rob Halford on vocals and Vinnie Appice on drums was enlisted as the opening act for the final two shows in Costa Mesa, while the original line-up reunited once again at the finale of the second evening to perform the songs Black Sabbath, Fairies Wear Boots, Iron Man and Paranoid. Ozzy's "retirement" proved somewhat short-lived, however, and after his next studio effort Ozzmosis in 1995 he hit the road once again with a Retirement Sucks tour. Plans to tour with the original Sabbath were also made in the early half of the decade, but were ultimately abandoned.
Although most 80s "metal" acts had experienced a significant drop in popularity by the arrival of the 1990s, Ozzy Osbourne managed to maintain his audience -- and even build on it -- throughout the decade. One of his means for accomplishing this was the Ozzfest touring festival, launched in collaboration with his wife/manager Sharon in 1996 and enlisting both established and up-and-coming metal bands on two separate stages. Prior to 2005, Ozzy's own band typically served as the headlining act, although Black Sabbath occupied the position several different times (in 1998 (for the UK), 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2005) and on two occasions both bands performed (in 1997 and 1998). The reunited Sabbath also toured independently of the festival during this time, documented in 1998 by the live album Reunion (a collection which also included two new studio tracks). A full-length studio album was planned, but was derailed by Osbourne's label Epic Records, who were more concerned with the completion of the singer's next solo project; Down to Earth, Ozzy's 8th studio effort, finally saw its release in 2001.
The peak of Ozzy Osbourne's public exposure unexpectedly arrived in 2001, after MTV decided to create a "reality" TV series centered around his family life following the taping of an episode of the home-invasion series Cribs at the singer's mansion. The Osbournes (originally broadcast between 2002 and 2005, but since kept alive in reruns) subsequently became one of the network's highest-rated shows and transformed Ozzy, Sharon and their two youngest children Jack and Kelly into household names. This new form of celebrity essentially overshadowed his music career, and the only studio release issued since the launch of the TV series (the all-covers collection Under Cover, 2005) was given a particularly lukewarm reception; on the other hand, the popularity of the show did manage to launch his duet version of Black Sabbath's Changes with daughter Kelly Osbourne to the top of the UK single charts in 2005.
In 2010, Osbourne sais he has been plagued with short-term memory loss since a 2003 accident on his quad-bike. "My short-term memory is zero. I remember my ex-wife's mother's phone number from 1975 but I can't remember what I did last night."
Father: Jack Osbourne (steelworker)
Wife: Thelma Mayfair (m. 1971, div. 1981)
Son: Elliot (stepson - adopted)
Daughter: Jessica Osbourne
Son: Louis Osbourne
Wife: Sharon Osbourne (manager, m. Jul-1982)
Son: Jack Osbourne
Daughter: Kelly Osbourne (musician)
Black Sabbath Vocalist 1968-79,1985,1992,1997-2001,2004-present
Grammy Best Metal Performance With Vocal for I Don't Want To Change The World (1993)
Grammy Best Metal Performance for Iron Man (with Black Sabbath) (1999)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2006 (with Black Sabbath)
Hollywood Walk of Fame Apr-2002
Rolling Stone Health columnist, 2010-
Endorsement of Best Buy 2011
Endorsement of Blizzard Entertainment 2008 (World of Warcraft)
Endorsement of Pepsi 2003
Endorsement of Radio Shack 2008 (Samsung Propel)
Endorsement of Samsung 2008 (Propel)
Endorsement of Unilever 2006-07 (I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spread)
Betty Ford Center 1986
unknown detox facility Boston, MA
Breaking and Entering 1965 (sentenced to 90 days)
Traveled to the USSR Aug-1989
Domestic Violence Sep-1989, no charges filed
Drunk in Public San Antonio, TX 1982
Public Urination San Antonio, TX 1982
Risk Factors: Alcoholism, Dyslexia, Depression, Cocaine, Marijuana, LSD, Stuttering, Insomnia
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Gnomeo & Juliet (23-Jan-2011) · Fawn [VOICE]
Lemmy (15-Mar-2010) · Himself
Austin Powers in Goldmember (22-Jul-2002) · Himself
Moulin Rouge! (9-May-2001) · Voice of the Green Fairy [VOICE]
Little Nicky (2-Nov-2000) · Himself
Black Sabbath: The Last Supper (15-Jun-1999) · Himself
Private Parts (7-Mar-1997) · Himself
The Jerky Boys (3-Feb-1995)
The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (10-Sep-1988) · Himself
Trick or Treat (24-Oct-1986)
Riders of the Storm (11-May-1986) · Himself
Live Aid (13-Jul-1985) · Himself
Rotten Library Page:
Author of books:
I Am Ozzy (2009, history)
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