lack Sabbath formed in Birmingham, England in 1969 and got their start with their unique dark, heavy and doom laden sound; often considered in the realm of the old school/standard heavy metal lot, Black Sabbath would become more of an influence to the gothic and doom metal genres years later. The name supposedly came from a book by occult writer Denis Wheatley, but in reality they took it from a movie of the same title inspired by the book. They were called Earth before taking the Black Sabbath moniker which had first been used as a song title in a pre-Earth blues operation called Polka Tulk,featuring the first Sabbath line up of Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Terry "Geezer" Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums). Many of their works dealt with subjects of alternative beliefs, mental images/instability (the later track Paranoid from the same-titled album is a good example), drug abuse, etc. They were also one of the first bands in heavy metal to utilize satanic imagery.
They first came onto the scene with the flop single Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me). Their debut proper was the self-titled Black Sabbath (1970). Merging Iommi's basic, doom laden riffs with Ozzy's vocal shrieks, and an occult influenced futuristic/medieval content it secured them a top 10 in the UK, The Wizard being the track of note. But it would be their sophomore release, Paranoid (1971), with its title track, that gained them their first notoriety, scoring them a #1, with the title track making 5 on its own. The rest of the album was no less impressive with high-speed Metal classics like War Pigs, Iron Man and Fairies Wear Boots caressing each and every groove. Master Of Reality (1971) also received note with softer tracks like Embryo and Orchid challenged by Children Of The Grave and Sweet Leaf. Black Sabbath Vol. 4 (1972) was less hard hitting, featuring a more classic Hard Rock feel. It got them notice in the coveted US market, however. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973) saw them return to their demonic ways; it also featured guest keyboardist Rick Wakeman of Yes fame.
Although featuring moments of brilliance, Sabotage (1975) ended off being less impressive with Technical Ecstacy (1976) continuing this tradition, prompting Ozzy Osbourne to leave briefly but return for the follow-up, Never Say Die (1978), before departing for good. Between all of these albums, they managed a "best of..." compilation to sum up their early years called We Sold Our Souls For Rock 'n' Roll (1975). Their music had changed significantly by lacking its earlier bombastic and orchestral style that sat less impressive on the mind of the famed vocalist; Osbourne would continue his life as a soloist. Dave Walker (ex-Savoy Brown; vocals) repeated the exit trick after his temporary tenure until Ronnie James Dio came; an ex-member of both Elf and Rainbow, Dio's credentials were beyond question. He was present during Sabbath's second coming with Heaven And Hell (1980), the minor hit, mostly due to the title track, Mob Rules (1981), and the next live platter Live Evil (1983; their first live recording). With the exception of the aforementioned Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules, this period was a less than stellar one for Black Sabbath. His relationship with them didn't last, however,and he too would seek a solo career in favor of Ian Gillian.
The period featuring Ian Gilian is considered their most unpopular time; their recording situation moving from the bad to the ridiculous. Right off the bat, their attempt to celebrate their new member with 1983's Born Again made it to #4 in the UK and 39 in the US but it fell flat by failing to recapture the original vitality of the group and the relationship quickly ended.
The whole line-up issue was readdressed; Iommi would end off being the only surviving member, with Geoff Nichols (keyboard; he had previously worked with them off-and-on since 1980 while still being a member of Quartz, but now joined full time). Glenn Hughes (ex-Trapeze/ex-Deep Purple; vocals who replaced the very temporary Dave Donato), Dave Spitz (bass) and Eric Singer (ex-Lita Ford Band; drums) also joined in. This line-up, although not the original in style, was nonetheless competent enough for Seventh Star (1986), the music and lyrics written by Iommi himself. Hughes leftto be replaced by Ray Gillin, an American singer who never stuck around long enough to record a single track. The Eternal Idol (1987) and The Headless Cross (1988) featured vocalist Tony Martin; the former also featuring renowned drummer Cozy Powell's production credits along with Laurence Cottle temporarily on bass (who was subsequently replaced after the next effort, Headless Cross, with ex-Vow Wow man Neil Murray). Martin also had a story to tell with Black Sabbath offering an on-and-off relationship featuring Rob Halford(of Judas Priest), Ozzy and Dio replacing him temporarily on a number of occasions.
As 1991 rolled around, Iommi's outfit was suffering from poor sales and bad credibility after the Tyr (1990) album, so he recruited original bassist, Butler back into the fold, but original drummer, Ward, was not interested (Cozy Powell was out of action due to an accident while horseback riding and was recovering), so Vinnie Appice (ex-Axis) was the incumbent drummer. The drum stool, like the mic., had several temporary players including Bev Bevan (of ELO; played on the Born Again album) and returned briefly from time to time, along with Terry Chimes (of Clash)). Ronnie Dio returned, after much speculation, for the 1992 release of Dehumanizer (1992). This coup succeeded in increasing Black Sabbath's notoriety, but Ozzy's attempts to regroup the original band for a tour failed when the members could not agree on how the spoils would be divided. Nativity In Black (1994) was the much anticipated Black Sabbath tribute album featuring the original members in different guises, as well as contributions from Megadeth, White Zombie, Sepultura, Biohazard, Ugly Kid Joe, Bruce Dickinson, Therapy?, Type O Negative, COC and all the other who's who of the time in Metal.
Martin would now return to relieve Dio of his vocal duties, the latter returning to his solo career, while Appice left the drum stood to the attention of Bobby Rondinelli (ex-Rainbow). The Cross Purposes (1995) live effort barely missed top 40 in the UK, with nothing in the US By the time Forbidden came in 1995 the original line-up was temporarily in force again, but Ozzy (who had apparently rejoined briefly) would leave again shortly later for the returning Rondinelli. The album was a desperate attempt to regain their fast fading market share. Several appearances on the Ozzy influenced Ozzfest tours over the late 1990s, and a guest appearance by Rap vocalist Ice-T on the aforementioned album had proven mildly successful in interesting a new generation but it was thought unlikely to last.
The Sabbath Stones (1996) was released as an updated "best of..." compilation. More recently the original members have been making overtures of getting back together but other than appearances live on tours it has failed to last with the live set, Reunion (1998), being the only recorded evidence of this attempt. Regardless of its problems, Black Sabbath would serve to link Metal to its psychedelic fathers and as a prototype for Death and black metal bands of the modern times.
In 2000 Tony Iommi would release an all-star solo effort titled simply Iommi with himself along with Bill Ward, Mat Cameron, John Tempesta, Kenny Arnoff (drums), Lawrence Cottle and Ben Shepherd (bass), Brian May (guitar) and a list of singers featured on different tracks including Henry Rollins, Phil Anselmo, Dave Grohl, Skin, Serj Tankian, Billy Corgan, Ian Asbury, Peter Steele, Billy Idol and Ozzy Osbourne. The 2004 Ozzfest tour would see the original line-up return for its duration.In March 2002, Ozzy Osbourne's Emmy winning reality TV show The Osbournes debuted on MTV, and quickly became a worldwide hit. The show introduced Osbourne to a broader audience and to capitalize, Black Sabbath's back catalogue label, 'Sanctuary Records' released a double live album Past Lives, which featured concert material recorded in the 1970s, including the previously unofficial Live at Last album. Black Sabbath remained on hiatus until the summer of 2004 when they returned to headline Ozzfest 2004 and 2005. In November 2005, Black Sabbath were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and in March 2006, after eleven years of eligibility, Black Sabbath were inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the awards ceremony Metallica played two Black Sabbath songs, Hole in the Sky and Iron Man in tribute to Black Sabbath.
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 subsiquently released in April, 2007.
Iommi and Dio decided to reunite the Heaven and Hell line-up for a world tour. Although the line-up of Osbourne, Butler, Iommi and Ward were still officially called Black Sabbath, the new line-up opted to call themselves Heaven and 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; he was replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice, effectively reuniting the line-up that had featured on the Mob Rules and Dehumanizer albums.
On 26 May 2009 Osbourne filed suit in a federal court in New York against Iommi alleging that he illegally claimed the Back Sabbath name. Iommi noted that he has been the only constant band member for its full 41-year history, and that his band mates relinquished their rights to the name in the 1980s, therefore claiming more rights to the name of the band. Although, in the suit, Osbourne was seeking 50% ownership of the trademark, he said that he hoped the proceedings would lead to equal ownership among the four original members.
In March 2010, Black Sabbath announced that along with Metallica they would be releasing a limited edition single together to celebrate 'Record Store Day'; it was released in April 2010.
Ronnie James Dio died on May 16, May 2010 from stomach cancer. In June 2010, the legal battle between Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi over the trademarking of the Black Sabbath name ended; the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
In November 2011, Iommi, Butler, Osbourne, and Ward announced that they were reuniting to record a new album with a full tour in support beginning in 2012; true to their word in May 2012, at the O2 Academy in Birmingham, UK, Black Sabbath played their first concert since 2005, with Tommy Clufetos on drums. The first studio album in years came in the form of 13 in June of 2013.
In July 2013, Black Sabbath embarked on a North American Tour (for the first time since July 2001), followed by a Latin American tour in October 2013. In November 2013, Black Sabbath started their European tour due to last until December 2013. In March and April 2014, they made 12 stops in North America (mostly in Canada) as the second leg of their North American Tour before resuming their European tour.
On 26 October 2015, it was announced Black Sabbath consisting of Osbourne, Iommi and Butler would be returning to the Download Festival in June 2016. Despite earlier reports that they would enter the studio before their farewell tour, Osbourne stated that there would not be another Black Sabbath studio album. However, an 8-track CD entitled The End was sold at dates on the tour. Along with some live recordings, the CD includes four unused tracks from the 13 sessions. This would be the very last recording by Black Sabbath as they played their final concert on 4 February 2017 in Birmingham, England. On 7 March 2017, Black Sabbath officially announced they had disbanded through their official social media accounts.
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A 1970 Billboard Magazine photo of the original Black Sabbath line-up. From left to right: Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne.
|Active Years||1968-2006, 2011-2017|
|RRCA File Code||REV00060|
Artists mentioned in this article:
|Ronnie James Dio||Ozzy Osbourne||White Zombie|
|Corrosion Of Conformity||Bruce Dickinson||Therapy?|
|Judas Priest||Ugly Kid Joe||Type O Negative|