Also Credited As:J Osbourne, John Osbourne, John Michael Osbourne
|John Michael Osbourne on December 3, 1948 in Birmingham, England, GB|
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John Michael Osbourne was born on Dec. 3, 1948 in Birmingham, England. His father made tools for the General Electric Company, while his mother worked in the automotive industry. Osbourne lived in a small two-bedroom home in Aston with his parents and five siblings. The future rocker had a difficult time in school as a result of various learning disabilities, including dyslexia. One thing he enjoyed, however, was acting in school plays. Osbourne fell in love with music in his early teens, especially The Beatles. After leaving school and working odd jobs in factories and construction, Osbourne pursued his own music career. He formed his first band in the late 1960s called Rare Breed, along with friend Geezer Butler. The group broke up after playing two shows, which left Osbourne and Butler to form another group with guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward. They originally called themselves Earth, but decided to change the band's name to Black Sabbath in 1969.
Named after the 1963 horror film that starred Boris Karloff, Black Sabbath played a heavy blues style of music that featured dark music, eerie orchestrations, and Osbourne's gloomy vocals. Recorded inside an English castle, the band's self-titled debut also featured lyrical themes inspired by supernatural events and the occult. Released on Friday the 13th in February 1970, Black Sabbath reached No. 23 on the Billboard 200 chart and was later regarded as the first heavy metal album. Music critics were not as impressed with Black Sabbath's debut, however, and panned the release for its jarring musical arrangements and lack of lyrical depth. Black Sabbath's sophomore release Paranoid was released that same year and received equally negative reviews from critics; despite its initial reviews, however, it was widely recognized by fans as the band's best album. Paranoid broke the Top 20 in the United States and went to No. 1 in the U.K. The album also contained some of Black Sabbath's signature songs, including the title track and "Iron Man." Years after it was originally released, Paranoid made Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time." The group eventually earned positive reviews with its fifth studio album, the critically acclaimed Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.
The band's international success and constant touring soon took its toll on Osbourne, who had begun abusing drugs and alcohol during these early years. Like most acts of the time, they often worked on their albums while under the influence, and their time on the road one long, drug-induced backstage party. Internal conflicts also plagued the group for several years. Osbourne recorded Never Say Die! in 1978, his last album with Black Sabbath, before going solo. Still, his drug and alcohol problems continued to haunt him. Osbourne released his solo debut Blizzard of Ozz in 1980, which went platinum, thanks in large part to the hit singles "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley." Another track on the album, "Suicide Solution," was widely criticized due to its lyrics that, according to lawyers, allegedly encouraged the suicide of a 19-year-old Osbourne fan in 1984. Christian groups also went after the singer, believing him to be a Satanist whose songs glorified devil worship and the occult, who used the inverted cross and pentagram symbols on his albums to send a secret message. Yet even with the controversy and opposition from conservative groups, Osborne maintained a strong presence on the charts with subsequent solo albums, including No Rest for the Wicked (1988) and No More Tears (1991).
No matter how successful his musical offerings, Osbourne's notorious rock and roll antics were talked about as much, if not more so, than the albums. The rocker raised many eyebrows with shocking acts - often perpetrated by his lingering drug and alcohol problems - that later become the stuff of legend. Shortly after launching his solo career in 1980, an intoxicated Osbourne bit the head off a dove during a meeting with record executives in Los Angeles. The following year, the singer performed his most notorious onstage act by biting the head off a bat during a concert in Des Moines, IA. It was rumored that the singer picked up a bat that a fan had thrown on stage, and bit it's head off without realizing it was a real bat. Osbourne received rabies shots for an entire week following the concert. Recognized as one of the most shocking acts in music history, Osbourne's bat-biting incident was parodied throughout his career, even by the artist himself. There was also a rumor that the Osbourne snorted a line of ants during a 1984 tour in an attempt to top Motley Crue's Nikki Six's stunt of setting himself on fire the night before. An out of control Osbourne proved he was a danger to more than just himself when he was arrested in September 1989 after he allegedly strangled his wife and manager Sharon while intoxicated. The couple reconciled the following year, but only after Osbourne underwent extensive drug rehabilitation.
Despite his outrageous past, Osbourne was also a devoted family man. His first marriage to Thelma Mayfair ended in divorce in 1982. That same year, he had married Sharon Arden, the daughter of former Black Sabbath manager Don Arden. The couple went on to have three children together, Aimee, Kelly and Jack. Millions saw a softer side to the singer after he, Sharon, Kelly, and Jack starred on their own MTV reality series (daughter Aimee declined to appear on the show). "The Osbournes" followed the wild and crazy exploits of the brood and their dozens of pets that ran rampant through their Beverly Hills mansion. Osbourne surprisingly had the least dramatic moments on the show. He spent most of his time walking around the house in his black jogging suit, mumbling to himself indecipherably, only to shout "Sharon!" whenever he needed his very patient wife. MTV's censors had a field day when it came to the family's incessant cursing, especially when Kelly and Jack were involved in a heated argument. Yet at the show's core was the fact that despite the fame, money and rock-and-roll backdrop, the Osbournes was just like any other suburban family. The hit show also documented serious events within the family, including Sharon's battle with colon cancer in 2002, to an ATV accident in 2003 that nearly killed Osbourne. The shaky rocker had broken his collarbone, eight ribs, and a neck vertebra during the crash that happened on his estate in Buckinghamshire, England.
Masterminded by manager Sharon, the success of "The Osbournes" launched the entire family to superstardom. From appearing on seemingly every red carpet event, to attending a 2002 White House Correspondents' Association dinner, the family became ubiquitous across the pop cultural landscape. The show also resurrected Osbourne's music career, including bringing more mainstream attention to Ozzfest, the annual touring festival created and organized by his wife in the late 1990s to celebrate various metal acts like Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park, and Rob Zombie, all of whom appeared over the years. Not surprisingly, Osbourne headlined the tour for several years. "The Osbournes" also introduced a new generation of music fans to Osbourne's music, and he consistently recording new albums throughout the 1990s and 2000s, tirelessly touring in support of them. Despite the heady rush of family fame, the reality show and the Osbourne's lock on public fascination began to wane, with the reality show being cancelled in 2005. That same year, Osbourne released the box set Prince of Darkness, which contained new songs, live recordings, demos, and covers of his favorite tracks originally done by artists like The Beatles and David Bowie. In 2006, he reunited with his former band mates Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Bill Ward when Black Sabbath was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Osbourne family reunited in front of the cameras for the variety comedy program "Osbournes Reloaded" (Fox, 2009), which was cancelled after the first episode due to poor ratings, tasteless jokes, and a surprising lack of chemistry. In 2010, his son Jack produced "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne," a no-holds-barred documentary that explored the rocker's childhood in England, his meteoric rise to fame as the "Prince of Darkness," and his journey to eventual sobriety.