Musician. Born John Michael Osbourne on December 3, 1948, in Birmingham, England. Osbourne is best known as the lead singer of the tremendously popular hard-rock ensemble Black Sabbath. With Sabbath, Osbourne laid both the musical and aesthetic groundwork for the heavy-metal movement in modern rock and roll.
Born to a solidly working class family, Osbourne left school at an early age. He worked at a series of menial jobs until his experiments with petty crime landed him in jail. Upon his release, Osbourne was asked by several acquaintances to sing for a new band. The band, originally called Earth, played a mix of mainstream, blues-inspired rock. While Earth earned some local notoriety, it wasn’t until the group began experimenting with the hard-driving, amplified sound that would later characterize the heavy metal genre, that the band caught the attention of record producers. Fortunately or unfortunately, the band’s moniker was already in use by another group. They adopted the name Black Sabbath, a reference to the classic Boris Karloff film.
Black Sabbath’s debut release, Black Sabbath (1970), was largely panned by critics, but sold well in England and abroad. Their sophomore effort, Paranoid (1971), included the phenomenally popular tracks “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” and “Paranoid,” all of which are considered seminal metal anthems. Later that year the band released their third album, Master of Reality, followed by Vol. 4 (1972), Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1975), Sabotage (1975) and Technical Ecstasy (1976).
The band’s use of religious symbolism and mythic themes lent a gothic cast to their public personae. It also earned them constant criticism from rightist groups, negative publicity that simply fueled the bands popularity with its fan base, mostly young males.
Osbourne left the group in 1978, at the height of Black Sabbath’s popularity, to pursue a solo career. Unlike many headlining artists who leave the groups that made them famous only to disappear into obscurity, Osbourne’s solo debut, Blizzard of Ozz (1980), was a resounding commercial success. His Diary of a Madman (1981) followed suit.
Throughout the 1980s, Osbourne continued to cultivate the image of the troubled loner, the social misfit, the angry rebel. His anti-social theatrics contributed to his public notoriety. He showered his audiences with raw meat, was arrested for urinating on the Alamo, bit the head off of a dove during a business meeting, and bit the head off of a live bat on stage.
In 1992, Osbourne announced that his No More Tears tour would be his last. However, the popularity of the subsequently released double-live album, Live and Loud (1993), caused Osbourne to rethink his retirement. The albums version of “I Don’t Want to Change the World” earned Osbourne his first Grammy Award.
In the 1990s, Osbourne continued to release albums and tour with his traveling metal festival, Ozzfest, but his star was clearly on the wane. Plus, he continued to struggle with substance abuse problems that had plagued him his entire career.
Osbourne returned to celebrity status by the unlikely success of his own bizarre brand of “reality” television. The Osbournes, a program featuring the domestic life of Osbourne and his clan, has turned into the MTV Network’s biggest hit to date. The comic appeal of the ageing headbanger completing such humdrum tasks as taking out the garbage charmed even those conservatives who once vilified Osbourne. The show took a more serious turn in the summer of 2002 when wife, Sharon, was diagnosed with colon cancer. The show lasted until 2005.
Despite his popularity as a reality television personality, Osbourne will also been remembered for his contributions to the world of music. He reunited with Black Sabbath in 2005 for a tour, and these legendary heavy metal heroes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year. At the induction ceremony, Metallica played “Iron Man” in honor of the group. Osbourne, however, devotes most of his time these days to his solo career. He released Black Rain in 2007, which reached the number three spot on the American album charts.
Osbourne and his wife, Sharon have three children, Jack, Kelly, and Aimee. He also has two children from a previous marriage.