Ozzy Osbourne is 65 years old on December 3. Old enough to qualify for a free bus pass in his native U.K, but still rebellious enough to be a rock hero to millions.
John “Ozzy” Osbourne remains one of rock’s most unlikely stars. He admits he “can’t really sing.” He says he can’t play any musical instruments – you probably wouldn’t want to hear him try. In Black Sabbath, he rarely even writes the words he wails – bassist Geezer Butler is the band’s lyricist.
Yet Ozzy’s been fortunate enough to work with some of guitar’s greatest heavy-riffing talents, more of whom later.
One thing Ozzy does do well is entertain, onstage and off. He certainly gives “good quote.” Here are just a few pearls of wit and wisdom from his I Am Ozzy autobiography and beyond…
Ozzy in his own words
“Never in a million years did I think I’d end up making a career out of singing. I didn’t think it was possible. As far as I knew, the only way I could make any dough was to go and work in a factory, like everyone else in Aston [Birmingham]. Or rob a [expletive] bank.”
“I don't consider myself a great singer - but I have a connection with the audience. There's the artist, and then a void and the audience; but I like to be part of the audience. I'd like to be them, and I'd like them to be me for an hour and a half.”
“One of the few good things about being dyslexic is that when I say I don’t read reviews, I mean I don’t read reviews.”
“Of all the things I`ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”
On Black Sabbath’s music: “What is this? It`s music to get a brain seizure by.”
“I got rabies shots for biting the head off a bat but that`s OK - the bat had to get Ozzy shots.”
On The Osbournes TV show: “I knew it was time to get off of reality TV when someone asked me if I sang as well as acted.”
“The funny thing about getting married in America was that we needed to get a blood test before they’d give us a licence. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the bloke from the lab had called back and said, ‘Mr Osbourne, we appear to have found some blood in your alcohol.’”
When asked about how long his adolescence lasted, Ozzy quipped: “It will be over around the year 2083, I think.”
“I love the smell of armpits in the morning. It's like victory.”
“Sometimes I’m scared of being Ozzy Osbourne. It could be worse... I could be Sting.”
Ozzy and guitarists
Ozzy Osbourne has been blessed by working with some of the greatest talents in metal guitar. All the guitarists he’s played with have been superb, for different reasons, so here’s a selected rundown of the guitar wizards of Oz.
Read what Ozzy says about guitarists, and what guitarists say about Ozzy.
Ozzy and Tony Iommi
The “godfather” of all metal guitarists. Since they first met as Birmingham schoolkids in the mid-‘60s, Ozzy and Iommi have had a “lively” relationship, to say the least. Polka Tulk Blues and Earth were the first bands they played in together – in 1969, a steadier line-up was named Black Sabbath. They’ve fallen out numerous times over the years. On one early occasion, Ozzy asked his dad Jack for advice.
Ozzy: “‘The world doesn’t revolve around Tony,’ [my dad] said. ‘There’ll be other guitarists.’ He was a good guy, my old man. But this time he was wrong. There were no other guitarists. Not like Tony.”
In I Am Ozzy, Osbourne reflects on the dynamics of 1970s Black Sabbath. “Officially, we didn’t have a band leader. Unofficially, we all knew it was Tony.”
Ozzy and Randy Rhoads
When Ozzy was fired by Black Sabbath in 1978, he was at his lowest ebb. But he crawled his way back and held auditions for a new solo band and found a stellar guitarist. Randy Rhoads could compose, play Iommi-esque doom riffs, solo like EVH, and could master jazz and classical guitar with jaw-dropping ease. Simply, Rhoads could play anything…
“He was the most dedicated musician I ever met in my life,” Ozzy said. “He was a master of his art.” Ozzy was in awe of Rhoads’ musical intelligence, but Randy Rhoads importantly included Ozzy in his compositions. “It was a bit like going to music school. Randy was very instrumental in bringing me out of me,” Ozzy said in 1990. He added, at the time, “The first two Ozzy albums are by far the greatest things I’ve ever done.”
It wasn’t to last. In a small-plane crash mid-tour, 24-year-old Rhoads was killed. Ozzy later said of his life: “I have no regrets… except that I wasn’t up to keep Randy from getting on that plane.”
Here’s Ozzy listening to a “lost” Randy Rhoads track. Ozzy’s face says it all.
Bernie Tormé and then Brad Gillis stepped in. Gillis is on Ozzy’s 1982 live album Speak of the Devil , but Ozzy credits Tormé (live shows only) with keeping him going. “Had it not been for Bernie. I honestly don’t think that I would’ve done another gig. When I saw Randy’s plane in flames, I thought it was over.”
Ozzy and Jake E Lee
Jake E Lee was with Ozzy for 1982-’87, perhaps longer than many people remember. Lee co-wrote on 1983’s Bark at the Moon and 1986’s The Ultimate Sin, but Lee and Ozzy never hit it off on a personal level. Ozzy told Guitar World : “Jake was fine for the first three days, then he wanted to take over. I wouldn’t say Jake and I got along, but I wouldn’t say we didn’t get along. But in the last few years he became very reserved and it was hard to communicate with him.
“We lived together in a house in Beverly Hills and we never spoke! It wasn’t because we didn’t like each other. We just didn’t have anything to say.” Lee was eventually fired by Ozzy’s wife/manager Sharon.
Ozzy and Zakk Wylde
Ozzy’s next guitar wizard made for a lasting relationship. The two still have a close bond, akin to father and son. Despite their differences along the way, Ozzy loves Zakk, and Zakk loves Ozzy. Zakk still calls Ozzy “the boss.”
On his early days with Ozzy, Zakk explained, “Ozzy gives me immediate feedback. He’ll tell me whether something blows or if he thinks it’s good; he also gives me hints on what to do on stage. If I was hanging with my friends, probably nothing would be said.”
Whoulda thunk the wayward Ozzy Osbourne could be a mentor?
In the ‘90s, as Zakk grew and grew as a guitarist he said: “Ozzy helped me get through the stage where I idolized people. Now I simply appreciate their playing. I love a lot of other guitar players, but now I’m happy with myself.”
Here’s Ozzy and Zakk live on “Gets Me Through.”
Ozzy and Gus G
Only one Ozzy album so far, Scream. But Gus G – also of his own band Firewind – told MusicRadar , “Playing with Ozzy’s a dream job… the ultimate. It’s the best gig any rock or heavy metal guitar player could have. Who wouldn’t want to play with Ozzy?”
And, again, Ozzy’s words for his new recruits can have impact. Gus G recalls recording Scream and says, “Ozzy was very gracious. He said, ‘Gus, you have to be 100 percent happy with whatever you put down on tape, because once it’s done, it’s there for the whole world to hear.’ And he’s right. So I made sure that I got all my parts and solos perfect.”
Steve Vai , Jerry Cantrell, Joe Holmes and others have all played live/recorded as guitarist with and for Ozzy Osbourne.
But what is that Ozzy Osbourne sees in a great guitarist? “It’s like shopping for a new suit,” Ozzy told Guitar World . “There may be a whole rack of blue suits, but only one will grab you. There’s no ritual, there’s no formula. I’ve just been lucky that everybody’s liked my taste in guitar players.”
More Ozzy-related guitar on Gibson.com
Tony Iommi Interview
The World Of Guitar According to Tony Iommi
Ozzy and Randy Rhoads
Zakk Wylde Talks Christmas!