Though many bands have succeeded in being hated by parents and media worldwide throughout the past few decades, arguably only such acts as Alice Cooper, Judas Priest and Marilyn Manson have tied the controversial record of Ozzy Osbourne. The former Black Sabbath frontman has been ridiculed over his career, mostly due to rumors denouncing him as a psychopath and Satanist. Despite his harsh profile, however, one cannot deny that Osbourne has had an immeasurable effect on heavy metal. While he doesn't possess a great voice (it's thin and doesn't have much range), he makes up for it with his good ear and dramatic flair. As a showman, his instincts are nearly as impeccable; his live shows have been overwrought spectacles of gore and glitz that have endeared him to adolescents around the world. Indeed, Osbourne has managed to establish himself as an international superstar, capable of selling millions of records with each album and packing arenas across the globe, capturing new fans with each record.
John Michael Osbourne began his professional career in the late '60s, when he teamed up with guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward to form Black Sabbath. The band, made unique by their slow, gloomy melodies and themes, released their self-titled album in 1970, and would go on to release classic platinum records such as Paranoid and Master of Reality throughout the rest of the decade. After the 1978 album, Never Say Die, Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath, which led him to form his own solo project. With his new manager and wife, Sharon, Osbourne formed his own band, the Blizzard of Ozz, with guitarist Randy Rhoads, bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake. The group's self-titled first album was released in 1981. Blizzard of Ozz had some of the same ingredients of Black Sabbath -- the lyrics focused on the occult and the guitars were loud and heavy, yet the band was more technically proficient and capable of pulling off variations on standard metal formulas. Featuring the hit singles "Crazy Train" and "Goodbye to Romance," Blizzard of Ozz reached number seven on the U.K. charts; it peaked at number 21 in the U.S., continuing to sell for over two years and becoming a huge success. Kerslake and Daisley would be replaced with Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo shortly before the subsequent release, Diary of a Madman. This album, which included the drug ode "Flying High Again," would chart at number 16 in the U.S. and became another huge seller.
As the Diary tour went underway, sales for the album continued to improve as those of Black Sabbath waned. Osbourne had no trouble in attaining mass audiences, and his career seemed to have peaked. However, controversy soon erupted when he was accused of animal cruelty -- during one performance, a bat was thrown onstage by a fan, and Osbourne bit its head off while supposedly thinking that it was fake; the show was canceled when he had to be rushed to the hospital for rabies vaccination. Not long afterwards, Rhoads was killed in a bizarre plane accident, bringing the band's success to a screeching halt. Osbourne fell into a massive depression shortly after losing his best friend, and plans for his upcoming live album were soon changed. Instead of material recorded with Rhoads, 1983's Speak of the Devil featured live recordings of classic Black Sabbath material, recorded with guitarist Brad Gillis and released to combat sales of Sabbath's Live Evil. Osbourne was freed from his contract with Jet Records, and showed up drunk at an Epic records meeting with two doves, one of which he freed and the other of which he killed in the same manner as the bat; Osbourne was signed to the label.
Jake E. Lee became Osbourne's new guitarist for the 1984 studio effort, Bark at the Moon. While it didn't match the consistency of Blizzard of Ozz or Diary of a Madman, the record was equally successful, pushing the singer to embark on a tour with glam-metal stalwarts Motley Crue. Although Bark at the Moon opened up to rave reviews, 1986's Ultimate Sin received rather harsh criticism. The album, although containing the hit single "Shot in the Dark," would be regarded as Osbourne's worst studio effort by numerous critics, who claimed it as redundant and uninteresting; nontheless, the album was another smash hit. Also in 1986, Osbourne was accused of encouraging suicide among listeners via use of subliminal messages in his Blizzard of Ozz song "Suicide Solution," a medley that he claimed was written in relation to the effects of alcohol abuse. Although the case was eventually dismissed, Osbourne once again earned a feared reputation. He pulled up his profile in 1987 with Tribute, a live album recorded in 1981 that was dedicated to the memory of Randy Rhoads. Lee left the band, and was replaced with Zakk Wylde for No Rest for the Wicked, which would be released in 1988. The record proved to be one of his strongest yet, highlighted by "Miracle Man," in which Osbourne ridiculed evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. Just Say Ozzy, a live E.P. taken from the subsequent tour, was released in 1990.
After recording a new studio album in 1991, Osbourne found himself without the usual enthusiasm to perform, due to his increasing age and his desire to spend more time with his family. When No More Tears was released in the fall, it was confirmed that the following tour would be Osbourne's last before retirement. No More Tears was greeted with fine response, and the leading single, "I Don't Wanna Change the World," would eventually win a Grammy award for Best Metal Song. Following the tour, a live double album, Live and Loud, was released in 1993 to commemorate Osbourne's career, and it was now assumed that the singer's glory days were over. However, the retirement was not to be -- Osbourne resurfaced in 1995 with Ozzmosis, which, despite mixed reviews, would sell three million copies within a year after its release. After the subsequent tour proved to be one of the best-selling of the summer, Osbourne created the Ozz-Fest, a tour package that would feature himself, along with many other metal bands. While there were only two performances in 1996, a live album was nonetheless released, simply titled The Ozzfest. 1997's tour package included such metal acts as Pantera, Marilyn Manson, and a Black Sabbath reunion, in which only Bill Ward was absent. With the exception of Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fair, Ozzfest '97 was the most successful tour of the year, and Osbourne released a compilation album, The Ozzman Cometh, in November. Shortly afterwards, Osbourne united the entire original lineup of Black Sabbath to record a live album due for release in 1998.