“All that stuff about heavy metal and hard rock, I don’t subscribe to any of that. It’s all just music. I mean, the heavy metal from the Seventies sounds nothing like the stuff from the Eighties, and that sounds nothing like the stuff from the Nineties. Who’s to say what is and isn’t a certain type of music?”—Ozzy Osbourne
Whether you know him as a heavy metal singer, a controversial celebrity, or a reality TV star, there’s no denying that Ozzy Osbourne has made his mark on the 20th and 21st centuries. Osbourne’s diverse, controversial life has baffled, amazed, and repelled audiences for decades. But a man doesn’t become known as “the Godfather of Heavy Metal” for nothing. How did his career begin? Why did he part ways with Black Sabbath? How did he get into the world of reality television? Read on for 42 facts about this truly bizarre icon of rock and metal music.
(No bats were harmed in the creation of this list).
42. What’s in a Name?
John Michael Osbourne was born in Birmingham, England, on the 3rd of December, 1948. He got the nickname “Ozzy” while he was in primary school and kept it for the rest of his life.
41. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
According to Osbourne himself, he was first inspired to become a musician when he heard the music of the Beatles at 14 years old. Specifically, it was the 1963 classic “She Loves You” which told him that his future lay in music.
40. Odd Job Jack
At age 15, Osbourne dropped out of school and began working a series of jobs to support himself. His long list of occupations around this time included plumber, laborer, horn-tuner, and toolmaker.
39. Selling Yourself
Before he joined the people with whom he’d form Black Sabbath, Osbourne posted an ad inside a Birmingham music shop. It read very simply and to-the-point: “Ozzy Zig Needs Gig—has own PA.” He was contacted by the others and joined them as a front man.
38. Cool Down
One of Osbourne’s usual acts as a performing artist onstage is to douse his audience with a bucket of water. It might be one of the rare times when you’d want to avoid the front row seats!
37. Literally Burning Your Money
Osbourne was once arrested after he set off fireworks in the hallway of a hotel he and the rest of Black Sabbath were staying in while on tour. Apparently, the cost of said prank was $200,000, which we reckon might have been used to buy the hallway which he destroyed!
36. When Ozzy Met Coke
According to Osbourne, his first experience with cocaine took place at a Denver hotel in 1971. You might be wondering how he seems so sure of this, and he’s explained that when “you fall in love with cocaine, you remember when you started. It’s like having your first f***.” Jeez, tell us how you really feel, Ozzy.
35. Ozzy & Pat
Osbourne was once neighbors with singer Pat Boone. Later on, Osbourne’s reality TV show used Boone’s cover of the Black Sabbath song “Crazy Train” as an intro song.
34. Making it Rain
In total, Osbourne’s albums, whether they are his own or with Black Sabbath, have sold over 100 million copies. That ain’t half bad for a kid who started off posting ads in guitar shops.
33. Daughter Duet
In December 2003, Osbourne released a new single, which was actually a cover of… his own song. He and his daughter Kelly released a version of the Black Sabbath song “Changes” and it went to #1 in the U.K.
32. Gathered in Their Masses
As Osbourne would later reflect, the early success of Black Sabbath came from a strictly male audience and he “wasn’t very popular with women.” This would eventually change, much to the band’s undoubted delight.
31. Impressive Pay Raise
For the first season of The Osbournes, each family member (including Osbourne himself) was paid $200,000 per episode. For the second season, they were each paid $5 million in total!
30. Small World
It might be presumptuous to assume that all celebrities know each other, but Osbourne does his part to uphold that illusion. In an interview with Conan O’Brien, Osbourne admitted having accidentally texted someone about the fact that he’d lost his cat. That person? Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. To be fair, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally texted Jimmy Page.
29. So Why’s it So Hard to Spell?
Osbourne has spent his life dealing with dyslexia. He says that this condition has contributed to his inability to finish a book, and he’s speculated that his dyslexia has also contributed to the sporadic creativity which has defined his career.
28. All Toxic Things…
In 1979, after more than ten years, a decision was made by the members of Black Sabbath to fire Osbourne from the band. He was proving very difficult, refusing point-blank to try out new ideas for songs. Not only that, the band was constantly putting off rehearsals to dabble in alcohol and narcotics, with Osbourne being one of the worst offenders.
27. Come Out, Oz
Allegedly, Osbourne took his firing from Black Sabbath very badly. He spent three months in a hotel room, consuming alcohol and drugs every single day of that time. Osbourne credited his wife, Sharon, for saving his life when she coaxed him out of his seclusion by offering to represent his solo career.
26. A Joke Thief
Osbourne’s first brush with the law came when he was a teenager, finding him caught in an attempted burglary. Of course, being a teenager and a novice to crime, Osbourne managed to make a bungle of the whole thing. In an attempt to steal clothing to re-sell on the black market, he accidentally stole baby clothes because it was too dark for him to tell the difference. In addition, he also tried stealing a television set, but he was forced to abandon it while he was fleeing the scene. Safe to say that the life of crime wasn’t quite for him.
25. Playing Hardball
After he was caught robbing the clothing store, Osbourne was sent to Winson Green Prison for six weeks due to his inability to pay the fine. His father wouldn’t pay it either, as he was determined to teach Osbourne a lesson. Based on how the rest of his life turned out, it wasn’t exactly a lesson that he learned!
24. Name Steal or Random Coincidence?
In the late 1960s, before Black Sabbath even had their famous name, another band in the same genre introduced the “Sign of the Horns” to the rock genre. This band was named Coven, and they embraced Satanic rituals and the occult into their music and performances. Interestingly, their first album contained a song titled “Black Sabbath,” and their bassist’s name was George Osborne, but he was usually known as Oz Osborne. As you can imagine, this raised a few eyebrows and a lot of speculation. However, there hasn’t been any confirmation from Osbourne or the rest of Black Sabbath that they were influenced by Coven. They maintain that they got the inspiration for their name from a 1960s horror film called Black Sabbath which was playing in a small cinema to an enthusiastic response. The popularity of the film inspired the band to adopt a scarier and more evil image than they’d been working with beforehand. To be fair, Coven’s biggest hit was “One Tin Soldier,” so their music wasn’t exactly that close to Sabbath’s.
23. Stretch Those Acting Chops
Aside from appearing on reality television, Osbourne has occasionally acted in films. He plays the reverend in the 1986 horror-comedy Trick or Treat, he acts as the band manager in The Jerky Boys, and he provided his voice for a role in Gnomeo & Juliet and its sequel.
22. From Ozzy to Aussie
On top of his other credits, Osbourne was meant to provide the voice of the Green Fairy in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! Originally, the fairy would be a long-haired man holding a sitar, but the part was redesigned for Kylie Minogue to play and instead. Osbourne is still credited for the role, however; he provided the loud scream that the Fairy utters as she turns evil.
21. Never Say Die!
Osbourne’s life very nearly came to an end on the 8th of December, 2003 when he suffered a terrible accident involving his quad bike. Not only did Osbourne break his collarbone and eight ribs, but he also ceased breathing altogether. It was only due to the efforts of his bodyguard, Sam Ruston, that he was resuscitated.
20. Meet Cutes
Osbourne met his wife, Sharon, when she was working as a receptionist for her father, manager Don Arden. Black Sabbath were interested in having him as their own manager, and he eventually signed on with them. Osbourne was happy because it meant having an excuse to see Sharon on a regular basis.
19. My Other Half
Despite the attraction, Osbourne and Sharon maintained a professional relationship until Osbourne left her father’s management. Sharon eventually became his manager instead, which she continued to do after they were married in 1982.
18. Black Sabbath at the White House
It’s safe to say that Osbourne has gained his share of fans over the years, whether as a solo artist or with Black Sabbath. But did you know what one of them happens to be former First Lady Barbara Bush? President George W. Bush, her son, once acknowledged Osbourne’s presence at the White House Press Club meeting, declaring that “Mom loves your stuff.” Was he joking? I guess we’ll never know.
17. Let’s Change the Channel
Despite his continued presence on reality television, Osbourne has adamantly refused to watch himself on any of his shows. To this day, as far as we know, he’s kept his promise.
16. Mano a Mano
According to Sharon, she and Ozzy were asleep in their bedroom when a man broke into the Osbourne home and began stealing her jewelry. Osbourne, however, woke up to use the bathroom, saw the burglar, and confronted him. To make matters more bizarre, he was completely naked at the time (Ozzy, not the burglar). The burglar managed to get away, presumably ruminating that he’d never hear the end of it in prison if he got caught.
15. Name Your Fave
Of all the albums which Osbourne has been involved with in his lifetime, he listed his favorite one as being Diary of a Madman. This was the second solo album he made after leaving Black Sabbath, and it included the singles “Over the Mountain” and “Flying High Again.”
14. Going Up in Flames
In what must have at least inspired someone in the fire department to shake their head or at least have a good laugh, Osbourne once nearly burned down his house in Los Angeles. The reason was a lot more mundane than you’d think: he was trying to make a bacon sandwich. Although, if there was a single man who could manage to nearly burn a house down over a single sandwich, it would be Ozzy Osbourne.
13. Can’t Sing Your Way Outta This One!
Perhaps not surprisingly, Osbourne had great difficulty passing his driver’s license test. Not even he can remember how many times he failed. On one such occasion, he had gone to the doctor beforehand and been given Valium to calm his nerves. It was certainly successful in calming him down; in fact, he fell asleep in the middle of a three-point turn demonstration!
12. That Looks Very Slimming, Sir
Once, to force him to stop drinking so much, Sharon stole all of his clothes and took them to a hotel room so he’d have nothing to wear to the pub. Osbourne, however, was so determined to get his usual drink that he went out wearing one of Sharon’s dresses.
11. Just Imagine Them All in Their Underwear
Believe it or not, despite having spent his career of more than 40 years in the spotlight, Osbourne has spent all that time dealing with stage fright. This partly explains his unique costumes and eccentric behavior onstage, as he uses it as a way of coping with that stage fright.
10. What’s Happening Again?
In an interview on BBC Radio 2, Osbourne confirmed what so many people probably assumed already; that during virtually the entire filming of his reality TV series The Osbournes, he was utterly stoned. This explains a lot, to be honest.
9. Never Forget
Allegedly, Osbourne had a specific reason for marrying his wife, Sharon, on the Fourth of July, 1982: He wanted to make sure that he would never forget his anniversary. Given some of the stories about Osbourne, this fear seems incredibly justified!
8. Round One: Dove
In 1981, Osbourne made a deal with CBS Records to begin his solo career after his departure from Black Sabbath. According to Osbourne, he had gone to the meeting with several doves hidden in his pockets with the intention of letting them go once he’d signed the deal, as sort of a peace offering. However, in true Osbourne fashion, he was so intoxicated that he forgot his original plan and decided instead to bite one dove’s head off and spit it onto the table! Of course, by then it was too late for CBS Records to change their minds about working with a madman like that.
7. Round Two: Bat
Given the controversy of the dove’s head, any other person might want to tone it down for a bit and lay low, but Osbourne decided to embrace it wholeheartedly. In 1982, while he was performing in Iowa, Osbourne bit the head off a bat which was thrown onto the stage by 17-year-old Mark Neal. Sources disagree on whether the bat was alive or dead before getting its head bitten off, while Osbourne defended his position by claiming to have believed the bat was made of rubber. In one version of the story, the bat managed to bite Osbourne as well, requiring him to undergo treatment for rabies. We honestly don’t know which version we want to be true.
6. Wait, I Did What?
In 1981, Osbourne was invited to a meeting in Germany with the head of CBS Records Europe where he jokingly performed a striptease and kissed the record executive. His wife allegedly had to tell him that he’d been so intoxicated that he’d done a Nazi goose-step across the table, dipped his genitals into said executive’s wine, and urinated into it. Sounds like one heck of a meeting!
5. Is That Sanitary?
One popular story, as told by Mötley Crüe bandmember Tommy Lee, revealed a moment of insanity which occurred while Osbourne was touring with Mötley Crüe in 1984. While they were partying it up on their tour bus in Florida, Osbourne felt the natural urge to “out gross” everyone around him. This was only accomplished when he snorted a line of live ants off of a popsicle stick!
4. You Might Want to Skip This Entry
As if that wasn’t enough, Osbourne was truly determined to one-up Mötley Crüe and prove himself to be the trashiest rock star in the world (no easy task). Lee told another story about how Osbourne, without any warning, pooped on the floor of Lee’s hotel room. To make things worse, he allegedly began smearing said excrement onto the walls! Safe to say this might take the prize for one of the grossest stories we’ve ever heard about anyone ever.
3. No License Required
Of all the tattoos that Osbourne has gotten in his life, his first was the one across the knuckles on his left hand, which spells out the word “OZZY.” Incredibly, the teenaged Osbourne didn’t go to any parlor for this first tattoo; he took a sewing needle and grate polish and did it himself!
2. We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Room
According to Black Sabbath guitarist Tommy Iommi, there was an incident in the 1970s when Osbourne was trying to stave off boredom in the middle of all the drug ingestion. To achieve this, he supposedly dragged the body of a shark into his hotel room and “[soaked the] room in blood.” I guess that doesn’t sound boring.
1. What Did I Do Now?!
As one can see from the list, Osbourne’s antics often led him to suffering blackouts where he couldn’t remember what he’d done to get himself in trouble. On one occasion, in 1989, he woke up in a prison cell and had no recollection of why. Terrified of what he’d done this time, he urged a police officer to explain things to him. It turned that he’d attempted to strangle his wife, Sharon. It’s no wonder that Osbourne later described it as “the most horrific feeling” when discussing it years later.