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Black Sabbath

Category: Musician or composer

Tony Iommi

Black Sabbath were an English heavy metal rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler, singer Ozzy Osbourne, and drummer Bill Ward.

  • Frank Anthony "Tony" Iommi (born 19 February 1948 in Birmingham,UK) is the lead guitarist, and one of the four founder members, of Black Sabbath.  He was also the band's primary composer for nearly five decades.  He has been married four times and has a daughter.  Tony keeps Rottweilers as pets "I've been bitten badly by Rottweilers on my right hand and arm. I had four Rottweilers the first time this happened. About five years earlier we had ten pups".  Tony is not a well man, having had numerous illnesses the last of which is cancer.
  • Terence Michael Joseph "Geezer" Butler (born 17 July 1949 also Birmingham UK) was the bassist and primary lyricist of Black Sabbath.  He is married, with two sons and several cats.  Butler is a lifelong supporter of Aston Villa Football Club.  According to Ozzy Osbourne's autobiography I Am Ozzy, Geezer "never uses foul language."  Butler was raised on a vegetarian diet and is now a vegan, and appeared in an advertisement for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 2009.
  • Iommi, Ozzy and Geezer [left to right]
    John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne  (born 3 December 1948, also Birmingham UK) – was the lead vocalist of Black Sabbath. He went on to have a successful solo career, releasing 11 studio albums, the first seven of which were all awarded multi-platinum certifications in the US. Osbourne has since reunited with Black Sabbath on several occasions, recording the album 13 in 2013. Ozzy has a star on the Birmingham Walk of Stars in his hometown as well as the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In the early 2000s, Osbourne became a reality television star, appearing as himself in the MTV reality show The Osbournes, alongside wife and manager Sharon and two of their three children, Kelly and Jack.
  • William Thomas "Bill" Ward (born 5 May 1948) was the drummer of Black Sabbath. He also performed lead vocals on two Black Sabbath songs: "It's Alright" from the album Technical Ecstasy and "Swinging the Chain" from the album Never Say Die!. Ward is known for his very unorthodox style of playing the drums, often using snare-drills and tempo-drop to match both vocals and riff.  Ward has two sons, Nigel and Aaron, and one daughter, Emily.  According to his Black Sabbath bandmates Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne, Ward has dramatically changed his lifestyle since Black Sabbath's 1970s and early 80s heyday. Iommi says he quit smoking, gave up alcohol, adopted a vegan diet, and no longer uses drugs of any kind.  He is however, not a well man and has heart and gastrointestinal problems

Black Sabbath have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the UK Music Hall of Fame.

Below:  Bill Ward [left] and Ozzy Osbourne [right]

Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970) and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.

Their credentials for being on the site are rather extraordinary, as Ozzy had a near death experience, they have seen ghosts and Tony was a very able out of body traveller at one stage.  ..........

Black Sabbath and drugs

reunion press conference 2011

Black Sabbath were major users of drugs, although no one claims ‘inspiration’ or ‘wisdom’ came as a result.  Perhaps one of the funniest passages in Ozzy’s book is called Patient Notes Hidden Hills California 2009, it describes his time in a clinic attempting to kick the booze, drugs and pills.

‘OK, Mr Osborne’ it starts ‘I’m going to ask you a question, have you ever taken street drugs?’,
‘Well’, I told him with a little cough ‘I once smoked some pot’.
I will not spoil it by quoting the entire passage, it is laugh out loud funny, but in the course of a long interview we have this:

‘Does heroin count?’
‘Yes heroin counts’
‘Oh.  And heroin then.  Just once or twice mind’
‘Are you sure it was once or twice?’
‘Oh yeah.  Fucking crap drug heroin is.  Have you tried it?’
‘No’
‘Too much throwing up for my liking’
‘The nausea can be intense yes’
‘It’s a waste of booze, that’s what it is’….
…..‘OK’ the doctor snapped ‘let’s just stop this.  Are there any drugs you haven’t taken, Mr Osborne?’
Silence.
‘Mr Osborne?’
‘Not that I’m aware of, no’……………..
The doctor nodded.  Then he cleared his throat, loosened his tie and said ‘I’ve got one last question for you, Mr Osborne’
‘Go ahead Doc’
‘Why are you still alive?’

Today, according to Ozzy, he is clean, drug and booze free, well as clean as he is ever likely to be and he feels OK.

I am Ozzy – Ozzy Osborne
First I quit the cigarettes.  People ask ‘How the fuck did you do that?’ but I was so fed up with buying patches, taking them off, smoking a fag, putting them back on, that I thought.  Fuck it, and went cold turkey.

Interest in the occult

The band members have made no secret about their interests in the occult, but despite the name of the group, they claim they are not ‘Satanic’, nor do they have any interest in people who practise the ‘dark arts’.

Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi

Of course, neither us or our music was satanic.  Geezer and his family were very religious, Irish Catholic – he still is – but at the same time he was interested in occultism.  He read a lot of books by …. Aleister Crowley.  We both had an interest in what happened beyond and got involved in  it quite a lot.  So he’d get his ideas from that.
I think Geezer felt that the music was portraying such a heavy thing, that the lyrical content had to be about something that went with the music.

 

And if you wish for more proof.

Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi

Geezer Butler

It was because of the vibe of the music that people felt it was satanic.  We were actually invited to join satanic sects.  Alex Sanders, the head witch of England, the ‘King of the witches’, came to the shows trying to get us into his thing.  And the first time we played San Francisco, Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, held a parade for us there.  I still have a picture of that.  LaVey with a Rolls Royce and a big banner that read ‘Welcome Black Sabbath’.  I thought, what’s all this?  That’s nice of them to do that! [sic].
When we turned down an invitation to play Walpurgis at Stonehenge, this sect put a curse on us.  We took that very seriously.
That’s when we started wearing our crosses.
Maybe it was the Walpurgis thing, but one night we all had this dream about wearing crosses to protect us from evil.
And so we did.

 

And here is more...............

Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi

Back at the hotel one night, we went up to our floor and there was a whole crowd of people with black cloaks on and candles, sitting in the hallway outside our rooms.  We thought what’s going on here? They really take you too seriously.  Bloody hell!
We climbed over them and got into our rooms and they held onto their candles, murmuring.  We phoned each other up and said – what are we going to do?  Let’s give it half a minute and we’ll all go outside.
So we did.
We all went into the hallway, blew out the candles and sang ‘Happy Birthday' to them.

which may seem funny, but it isn't, because they had got themselves into something way beyond their understanding.  

The Dark side are needed because without destruction there can be no change and construction/ creation. But people who dabble in this - and this actually includes Crowley, because he did not know what he was doing or the forces he was unleashing - can be silly dangerous people. 
Black shamans have to train their entire life to deal with and harness the forces of the dark side and contrary to what is commonly believed they have to live an almost spotless life, so that they don't get dragged down and become agents of evil, as opposed to agents of change.  It is absolutely the most difficult job of all - destroying and building at the same time, attacking with true intent, but leaving enough hope to mean people can see the path to follow.  Dabble in this without the protection you need and you become an agent of evil, and eventually the evil turns on you - the demons consume you from the inside out.  And I am not joking because this is absolutely not a joking manner it is deadly serious - literally.

 

 The dark dark side of Black Sabbath

All groups, whether they like it or not are role models to the young.  I have chosen the passage from Ozzy’s book because it shows the side that is often portrayed to young people – a very funny man, likeable, apparently permanently sozzled, but managing to survive and stay witty.  He blames the brain damage on the bike accident.  He may be right.  And so we have in everyday life, many who try to emulate Ozzy, because they want to be like him - famous, funny, with money, someone who made it very big with talent alone.

 

But there is a very dark evil side to Black Sabbath that started to surface during the drug taking time and the time they were messing with Ouija boards and seances, without really understanding what they were getting into. It is no accident they were pursued by the Satanists, Satanists know their own.

For reasons never explained in any of their autobiographies, Bill Ward became the target of their – principally Iommi’s - ‘pranks’.  Except their pranks were not funny they were actually downright evil. 

According to Tony Iommi himself, he and the band would often set Ward's beard on fire and perform other harmful pranks on him. On one occasion, Ward even received third-degree burns. In an interview with Guitar World, [it is also in his autobiography which reads at times like a confession], Tony described it as follows:

Bill and I were in the studio rehearsing one day and out of the blue I asked him, "May I set you on fire, Bill?" And he said, "Well, not now, not now." And then I forgot about it. Later on when the day ended, he said to me, "Well, I'm going home now; you still want to set me on fire or what?" And I said, "Sure." So I took a small can of lighter fluid and sprayed it on him, lit a match, and whoomph. He was wearing these polyester pants so they burned really quickly and he was on the floor screaming and crying. I could not help him because I was so busy laughing [sic]. It actually turned out to be quite serious. I felt really bad for him. He was sent to the hospital. Later on, his mother called me on the phone and said, "You barmy bastard, it's about time you grew up.." But things like that always happened to Bill [sic].

Now, Tony Iommi is a legend in music circles, a role model of considerable stature to the young, here is one quote about him, all true

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi is considered one of the best and most innovative guitarists in rock. Guitar god Eddie Van Halen called Iommi the “master of riffs.” High praise. His heavily laden sound drips off his guitar strings like molasses, or more appropriate for the territory, blood.

When Iommi’s autobiography was released a whole raft of cases started to appear of children and adolescents being set fire to in exactly the same way as Iommi set fire to Bill.  For example

A 10-year-old special-needs Texas boy who was severely burned in a blaze is maintaining he was intentionally set on fire by another boy.  Kayden Culp told relatives that the horrific incident was not an accident after he had his breathing tubes removed earlier this week and was finally able to speak again.  Culp, of Kerrville, suffered third-degree burns on 20 percent of his body and had to be placed in a medically-induced coma following the October 2 fire.   He was burned on his arms, chest and neck when three other boys, who are aged nine, 10 and 11, allegedly doused Kayden with gasoline before setting him on fire.

Kayden Culp's parents have had to set up a fund to pay for his medical bills.

 

Iommi says in his book  that Ward almost died after a 'prank'-gone-wrong during recording of Black Sabbath Vol. 4 in 1972. The band were renting a Bel Air mansion belonging to John DuPont of the DuPont chemical company. The band found several spray cans of gold DuPont paint in a room of the house; finding Ward naked and unconscious after drinking heavily, they proceeded to cover the drummer in gold paint from head to toe. Ward soon became violently ill and had a seizure and an ambulance had to be called. The paint had blocked all of Ward's pores, which they were subsequently informed can be fatal.  So they nearly killed him - murder.

Demons create demons; the abused, abuse; the bullied, bully; the hurt continue to hurt unless they realise what is happening. If they don't, and do not seek forgiveness and redemption, the demons consume their own.

 
 

Iommi ‘s was not a happy childhood, he was the only and unwanted child, was beaten and watched his patents argue and physically fight.  He was also bullied. 

In later life, he has had numerous health problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, prostate cancer, back pain, headaches, and is in constant pain. In early 2012, Iommi was diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma.  According to a report in Rolling Stone magazine from 9 December 2016, Iommi revealed that he was due to have an operation to remove a lump from his throat.

Call a demon, get a demon, create a demon and it will eventually turn on its owner.

It would seem that now, as he reaches the end of his life Iommi has inwardly experienced remorse - but has he sought forgiveness and has he forgiven - for he too was abused remember? 

Poems Selected from Heinrich Heine – by Kate Freiligrath Kroeker
I called the devil and he came
To view him with wonder I began
He is not ugly he is not lame
Far from it, he is a charming man

No redemption without both. 

Iommi said in 2016 that he believed in God and in January 2017, a choral work by Iommi entitled "How Good It Is" – with lyrics inspired by Psalm 133 – received its debut performance at Birmingham Cathedral. 

Psalm 133

A Song of degrees of David.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

 

 

References

  • Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi [2012].  This is Iommi’s autobiography and includes details of his fight with cancer.  It covers not only his life, but interwoved is the history of Black Sabbath as well.  He said in an interview in 2009 that he had been “working on it for ages,” and that. “It seems to be taking forever because of everything else going on.”  In other words his illnesses.  But it is notable that he said it was important that he finished the book, as he believed no other biography has captured the spirit of the band.

    I don’t think one book on Sabbath has got it right, yet. They come up with all this bull****, but you can only get the right story from the people who were there.
  • I Am Ozzy Paperback – Ozzy Osbourne [2010 ] – “People ask me how come I'm still alive, and I don't know what to say. When I was growing up, if you'd have put me up against a wall with the other kids from my street and asked me which one of us was gonna make it to the age of sixty, with five kids and four grandkids and houses in Buckinghamshire and California, I wouldn't have put money on me, no f**king way. But here I am: ready to tell my story, in my own words, for the first time.   A lot of it ain't gonna be pretty. I've done some bad things in my time. But I ain't the devil. I'm just John Osbourne: a working class kid from Aston, who quit his job in the factory and went looking for a good time.”

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