You Say It's Your Birthday: Ozzy Osbourne

Where would heavy metal be without the vocal contributions of one John

Osbourne, a.k.a. Ozzy Osbourne, who celebrates his 49th birthday today.

Born in Birmingham, England, the self-proclaimed "ham" founded the metal

band, Black Sabbath, in 1970, with bassist Terry "Geezer" Butler, guitarist Tony

Iommi, and drummer Bill Ward. Mixing ear-splitting volume with ominous

declarations of doom and destruction, the band's 1971 LP, Paranoid,

would eventually sell more than four million copies despite virtually no airplay.

Black Sabbath toured the United States heavily in the early 1970s, garnering a

large cult following and earning the band both the respect and admiration of its

peers.

Drug and alcohol usage would take its toll, however, and in 1978, Osbourne left

the band to pursue a solo career. His first two solo LPs went double-platinum,

and in 1981, "You Can't Kill Rock 'n' Roll" received heavy FM-AOR airplay

throughout the United States. Osbourne's eccentric behavior has been

highlighted by several incidents -- at a meeting with record executives in L.A.,

he bit the head off of a live dove and, several months later, he bit the head off of

a bat thrown to him by a fan at a Des Moines, Iowa, concert. Osbourne's career

was marred by several serious setbacks, including the death of his guitarist,

Randy Rhoads, in a tour-plane crash in 1982. Alcoholism reared its ugly head

and forced Osbourne to spend three weeks at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1986. The

latter half of the 1980s saw Osbourne become a favorite target of the Religious

Right. A lawsuit was later filed by three separate families, claiming the release

of his song, "Suicide Solution," contributed to the death of their sons, who took

their own lives. Osbourne prevailed in every suit, stressing that the song was

anti-suicide and a lament over the death of AC/DC's Bon Scott. Osbourne

continues to tour and recently released a 2-CD compilation called "The Ozzman

Cometh," which contains his greatest hits, both solo and during his years with

Black Sabbath.

Other birthdays: Andy Williams, 69; Mickey Thomas (Elvin Bishop Group/Starship),

48; John Wilson (Them), 48; Adamski, 30; and Montell Jordan, 26.