Black Sabbath formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, singer Ozzy Osbourne, and drummer Bill Ward. The band has since experienced umpteen thousands of line-up changes, with Tony being the only constant presence in the band
Originally formed in 1968 as a heavy blues rock band named Earth, the band began incorporating occult themes with horror-inspired lyrics and tuned-down guitars. Despite an association with occult and horror themes, Black Sabbath also composed songs dealing with social instability, political corruption, the dangers of drug abuse and apocalyptic prophecies of the horrors of war.
Osbourne's heavy drug use (and his dad dying) led to his dismissal from the band in 1979, after which he began a successful solo career, selling over 100 million albums. He was replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. After a few albums with Dio's vocals and song writing collaborations, Black Sabbath endured a revolving line-up in the 1980s and '90s that included vocalists Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen and Tony Martin, as well as multiple members of Deep Purple and Rainbow. In 1992, Iommi and Butler rejoined Dio and drummer Vinny Appice to record Dehumanizer. The original line-up reunited with Osbourne in 1997 and released a live album Reunion. Black Sabbath's 19th studio album 13 was released on June 11, 2013.
Black Sabbath are cited as pioneers of heavy metal. The band helped define the genre with releases such as quadruple-platinum Paranoid, released in 1970. They were ranked by MTV as the "Greatest Metal Band" of all time, and placed second in VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" list, behind Led Zeppelin. Rolling Stone magazine ranked them among the 100 greatest artists of all time. They have sold over 15 million records in the United States and over 70 million records worldwide. Black Sabbath were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
While playing shows in England in 1969, the band discovered they were being mistaken for another English group named Earth, and decided to again change their name. A cinema across the street from the band's rehearsal room was showing the 1963 Boris Karloff horror film Black Sabbath directed by Mario Bava. While watching people line up to see the film, Butler noted that it was "strange that people spend so much money to see scary movies." Following that, Osbourne and Butler wrote the lyrics for a song called "Black Sabbath", which was inspired by the work of horror and adventure-story writer Dennis Wheatley, along with a vision that Butler had of a black silhouetted figure standing at the foot of his bed. Making use of the musical tritone, also known as "The Devil's Interval", the song's ominous sound and dark lyrics pushed the band in a darker direction, a stark contrast to the popular music of the late 1960s, which was dominated by flower power, folk music, and hippie culture. Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford has called the track "probably the most evil song ever written". Inspired by the new sound, the band changed their name to Black Sabbath in August 1969, and made the decision to focus on writing similar material, in an attempt to create the musical equivalent of horror films.
Following the tour, Black Sabbath returned to Los Angeles and again rented a house in Bel Air, where they spent nearly a year working on material for the next album. With pressure from the record label, and frustrations with Osbourne's lack of ideas coming to a head, Tony made the decision to fire Osbourne in 1979. "At that time, Ozzy had come to an end", Iommi said. "We were all doing a lot of drugs, a lot of coke, a lot of everything, and Ozzy was getting drunk so much at the time. We were supposed to be rehearsing and nothing was happening. It was like 'Rehearse today? No, we'll do it tomorrow.' It really got so bad that we didn't do anything. It just fizzled out."Bill Ward, who was close with Osbourne, was chosen by Tony to break the news to the singer. "I hope I was professional, I might not have been, actually. When I'm drunk I am horrible, I am horrid," Ward said. "Alcohol was definitely one of the most damaging things to Black Sabbath. We were destined to destroy each other. The band were toxic, very toxic."
Sharon Arden (later Sharon Osbourne), daughter of Black Sabbath manager Don Arden, suggested former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio to replace Ozzy Osbourne in 1979. Dio officially joined in June, and the band began writing their next album. With a notably different vocal style from Osbourne's, Dio's addition to the band marked a change in Black Sabbath's sound. "They were totally different altogether", Iommi explains. "Not only voice-wise, but attitude-wise. Ozzy was a great showman, but when Dio came in, it was a different attitude, a different voice and a different musical approach, as far as vocals. Dio would sing across the riff, whereas Ozzy would follow the riff, like in "Iron Man". Ronnie came in and gave us another angle on writing."
On 18 August 1980, after a show in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ward quit the band. "It was intolerable for me to get on the stage without Ozzy. And I drank 24 hours a day, my alcoholism accelerated". Geezer Butler stated that after the show, Ward came in drunk, talking about the things where "He might as well be a martian". Ward then got angry, and decided to pack his things, and get on a bus to leave. The group then brought in drummer Vinny Appice to replace Ward.
The band completed the Heaven and Hell world tour in February 1981, and returned to the studio to begin work on their next album. Black Sabbath's second studio album produced by Martin Birch and featuring Ronnie James Dio as vocalist, Mob Rules was released in October 1981, to be well received by fans, but less so by the critics. Rolling Stone reviewer J. D. Considine gave the album one star, claiming "Mob Rules finds the band as dull-witted and flatulent as ever". Like most of the band's earlier work, time helped to improve the opinions of the music press, a decade after its release, Allmusic's Eduardo Rivadavia called Mob Rules "a magnificent record".
The album was certified gold, and reached the top 20 on the UK charts. The album's title track "The Mob Rules", which was recorded at John Lennon's old house in England, also featured in the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal, although the film version is an alternate take, and differs from the album version.
Unhappy with the quality of 1980's Live at Last, the band recorded another live album—titled Live Evil—during the Mob Rules world tour, across the United States in Dallas, San Antonio, and Seattle, in 1982. During the mixing process for the album, Iommi and Butler had a falling out with Dio.
Misinformed by their then-current booze addled mixing engineer, Iommi and Butler accused Dio of sneaking into the studio at night to raise the volume of his vocals. In addition, Dio was not satisfied with the pictures of him in the artwork. "Ronnie wanted more say in things," Iommi said. "And Geezer would get upset with him and that is where the rot set in. Live Evil is when it all fell apart. Ronnie wanted to do more of his own thing, and the engineer we were using at the time in the studio didn't know what to do, because Ronnie was telling him one thing and we were telling him another.
At the end of the day, we just said, 'That's it, the band is over'". "When it comes time for the vocal, nobody tells me what to do. Nobody! Because they're not as good as me, so I do what I want to do," Dio later said. "I refuse to listen to Live Evil, because there are too many problems. If you look at the credits, the vocals and drums are listed off to the side. Open up the album and see how many pictures there are of Tony, and how many there are of me and Vinny".
Ronnie James Dio left Black Sabbath in November 1982 to start his own band, and took drummer Vinny Appice with him. Live Evil was released in January 1983, but was overshadowed by Ozzy Osbourne's Speak of the Devil, which went platinum by the by
In the summer of 1997, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne officially reunited to co-headline the Ozzfest festival tour alongside Osbourne's solo band. The line-up featured Osbourne's drummer Mike Bordin filling in for Ward, who was unable to participate because of previous commitments with his solo project, The Bill Ward Band. In December 1997, the group was joined by Ward, marking the first reunion of the original four members since Osbourne's 1992 "retirement show". The original line-up recorded two shows at the Birmingham NEC, which were released as the double live album Reunion on 20 October 1998. Reunion reached number eleven on the Billboard 200, and went platinum in the US.
The album spawned the single "Iron Man", which won Black Sabbath its first and only Grammy award in 2000 for Best Metal Performance, 30 years after the song was originally released. Reunion also featured two new studio tracks, "Psycho Man" and "Selling My Soul", both of which cracked the top 20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart....
While Ozzy Osbourne was working on new solo album material in 2006, Rhino Records released Black Sabbath: The Dio Years, a compilation of songs culled from the four Black Sabbath releases featuring Ronnie James Dio. For the release, Iommi, Butler, Dio and Appice reunited to write and record three new songs as Black Sabbath. The Dio Years was released on 3 April 2007, reaching number 54 on the Billboard 200, while the single "The Devil Cried" reached number 37 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
Pleased with the results, Iommi and Dio decided to reunite the Heaven and Hell era line-up for a world tour. While the line-up of Osbourne, Butler, Iommi and Ward were still officially called Black Sabbath, the new line-up opted to call themselves Heaven & Hell, after the album of the same name, to avoid confusion. Ward was initially set to participate, but dropped out before the tour began due to musical differences with "a couple of the band members". He was replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice, effectively reuniting the line-up that had featured on the Mob Rules and Dehumanizer albums.
Heaven & Hell toured the US with openers Megadeth and Machine Head, and recorded a live album and DVD in New York on 30 March 2007, titled Live from Radio City Music Hall. In November 2007, Dio confirmed that the band had plans to record a new studio album, which was recorded in the following year. In April 2008 the band announced the upcoming release of a new box set and their participation in the Metal Masters Tour, alongside Judas Priest, Motörhead and Testament. The box set, The Rules of Hell, featuring remastered versions of all the Dio fronted Black Sabbath albums, was supported by the Metal Masters Tour. In 2009, the band announced the name of their debut studio album, The Devil You Know, released on 28 April.
In a January 2010 interview while promoting his biography I Am Ozzy, Osbourne stated that although he was not ruling out a reunion, he was doubtful there would be a reunion with all original members. Osbourne stated: "I'm not gonna say I've written [a reunion] out forever, but right now I don't think there is any chance. But who knows what the future holds for me? If it's my destiny, fine."Butler said that there would be no reunion in 2011 since Ozzy was going to tour with his band.
On 11 November 2011, Iommi, Butler, Osbourne, and Ward announced that they were reuniting to record a new album and begin to tour in 2012. Tony Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma on 9 January 2012, which obligated the band to cancel their entire European tour, except for three shows: in Birmingham, Download Festival, and Lollapalooza Festival. In February 2012, Bill Ward announced that he would not participate in the band's reunion unless he was offered a "signable contract".
On 21 May 2012, at the O2 Academy in Birmingham, Black Sabbath played their first concert since 2005, with Tommy Clufetos playing the drums. In June, they performed at Download Festival, followed by the last concert of the short tour at Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago. Later that month, the band started recording the album.
On 13 January 2013, the band announced that the album would be released in June under the title 13. Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine was chosen as the drummer, and Rick Rubin was chosen as the producer. Mixing of the album commenced in February. On 12 April 2013, the band released the album's track listing. The standard version of the album features eight new tracks, and the deluxe version features three bonus tracks.
The band's first single from 13, "God Is Dead?", was released on 19 April 2013.
On 20 April 2013, Black Sabbath commenced their first Australia/New Zealand tour in 40 years, to be followed by a major U.S. tour in July and August 2013.
Ronnie James Dio
Black Sabbath (1970)
Master of Reality (1971)
Black Sabbath Vol. 4 (1972)
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)
Technical Ecstasy (1976)
Never Say Die! (1978)
Heaven and Hell (1980)
Mob Rules (1981)
Born Again (1983)
Seventh Star (1986)
The Eternal Idol (1987)
Headless Cross (1989)
Cross Purposes (1994)