Ozzy Osbourne

Singer Ozzy Osbourne reunited with Black Sabbath for a few shows at the end of last year, one of which is documented on the recently released, live Black Sabbath Reunion LP. The album, which came out last month, shot to #11 in its first week on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Metal fans have been following Osbourne's career since the '70s, through his stint with heavy-rock pioneers Black Sabbath and later in his forays as a solo artist.

Ozzy was born John Michael Osbourne 50 years ago today in Birmingham, England. Initially, vocalist Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler, guitarist Tony Iommi, and drummer Bill Ward were school friends, who formed the pop/rock band Earth in 1968. A year later they switched to hard rock and became Black Sabbath.

Though Sabbath received little radio airplay, they were one of the biggest hard-rock bands of the '70s, with such metal classics as "Paranoid" (RealAudio excerpt of live version), "War Pigs," "Iron Man," and "Sweet Leaf." In 1971, Sabbath issued two popular LPs, Paranoid and Masters of Reality. To generate attention, the band exaggerated its interest in Satanism. The group enjoyed several more successful LPs, but all the while, friction was erupting in the ranks.

Osbourne left following 1978's Never Say Die to form his Blizzard of Ozz, which had an early hit with "Crazy Train." His first two "solo" LPs went gold, and the Blizzard of Ozz's gory spectacle tours were successful. Around this period, Osbourne also made news for biting off the heads of a bat and a dove in separate incidents. In 1982, while on tour, the band lost guitarist Randy Rhoads in a plane crash.

Bark at the Moon (1983) featured the debut of new guitarist Jake E. Lee. Osbourne scored a hit with "Shot in the Dark," off 1986's The Ultimate Sin. During the same year, he was sued for encouraging suicide with the cut "Suicide Solution," which he said was about the effects of alcoholism. The case against Osbourne eventually was dismissed.

"I Don't Wanna Change the World," from 1991's No More Tears won Osbourne a Grammy Award for Best Metal Song. Ozzmosis (1995) went triple-platinum, and after the supporting tour, Osbourne created the Ozzfest, his popular yearly tour package, in which he has been joined by such top metal bands as Marilyn Manson and Pantera (both in 1997). Last year, Osbourne issued the compilation disc The Ozzman Cometh.

This year, Osbourne continued his high public profile by reuniting with the original members of Black Sabbath for a live album and a tour that will keep the band together for a good part of 1999.

Butler said of the crowd response to the Sabbath reunion shows held late last year: "The reception that we got from the audience was amazing. I've stood [on stages] over the past few years, playing various Sabbath songs with ... different lineups, with different people singing or playing guitar or drums. It was almost magical to hear it the way it should be. It was like coming home."

Also this year, Osbourne cut a new version of "Iron Man" with rapper Busta Rhymes. The cut, titled "This Means War," will appear on Rhymes' next LP, due this month.