Music News

Happy Birthday, Ozzy Osbourne!

Call him the Prince of Darkness. Or the Godfather of Metal Mayhem. Call him incoherent. Or call him by his given name, John Michael Osbourne. No matter what he's called, Ozzy Osbourne is a genuine phenomenon. He's not only one of Rock's most successful artists of all time -- having sold tens of millions of albums, both solo and as a member of his seminal band Black Sabbath -- but also one of its wealthiest as well, with a reported worth of $100 million. In addition, he's a successful entrepreneur, a best-selling author and a popular reality TV star. To most people however, he's a cartoonish character whose bumbling, stumbling persona has made him one of the best known and most beloved pop icons of the past40 years. 

Still, despite his unlikely rise to fame and fortune - born December 3, 1948 and raised in a low-income household, he battled dyslexia and other learning disabilities early on, then dropped out of school at age 15 and worked a number of demeaning jobs until he found his calling in rock 'n' roll - there are those who dismiss him as a drug-addled clown and an inconsequential boob. Indeed, Ozzy's vocal abilities are marginal at best, and even he himself credits his wife Sharon for the career decisions that have catapulted him into entertainment's top tier. Yet Ozzy also deserves credit for innovation... and achieving his unlikely success despite decades of devastating drug abuse. 

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter whether one likes his music or not. Ozzy's endearing, and frankly, he's outright entertaining, whether he intends to be or not. So in order to give the dude his due, we here at New Times offer a list of compelling reasons to offer some Ozzy our appreciation.

10) He invented Heavy Metal. Well, okay, there were other outfits doing the same sort of thing before him... Blue Cheer, for example. But Black Sabbath did it badder and better than any of the competition. "Paranoid," "Iron Man" and "Black Sabbath" remain classics of the genre and an ongoing influence on the metal maniacs that followed. 

9) He invented Goth. Well, again, maybe not. But certainly, no other band was as successful in integrating Satan into their set-up as the Sabs. Named for a Vincent Price horror flick, they adopted their ghostly guile because they realized people like being scared. Not scared as in wondering if the economy is going to collapse, but rather scared of the ghosts, goblins and ghouls that the early Sabs enjoyed emulating. Where would Marilyn Mason be without him? 

8) He created Ozzfest, one of Rock's most successful roaming music festivals. Ozzy himself was the built-in headliner of course, but when a reunited Black Sabbath were added to the bill in 1997, its pull became even more potent. Despite Ozzy's decision to temporarily retire from the roster in the mid 2000s, Ozzfest continued to gather top notch talent, and am ever growing fan following to boot. To date, n estimated five million people have attended Ozzfest, bringing its gross to over $100 million people. In addition, it helped Osbourne to become the first hard rock and heavy metal stars to hit $50 million in merchandise sales. 

7) With "The Osbournes, Ozzy and his family help invent the reality genre, at least as it applies to real life celebrities. Even non-fans got a kick out of seeing this bumbling dad and befuddled husband who seemed perpetually challenged and in need of his kin to come to his aid. America loved Ozzie and Harriet and David and Rickie, but from 2002 - 2005, Ozzy and Sharon and Jack and Kelly always had us in stitches. Ozzy later admitted what audiences always suspected, namely that he was stoned the entire time. But no matter; like really - who could tell the difference? 

6) Ozzy proved that wasted, incoherent rock stars can make music and still be successful at it as well. Yes, Keith Richard may set the standard, but given the Stones' erratic output, Ozzy's one zippy zombie by comparison. On the other hand, when Ozzy put on Sharon's dress and relieved himself outside the Alamo in 1982, he set one sorry example. Watching that caper could have convinced even the most unrepentent alcoholic to choose the path towards sobreity. Alcoholics Anonymous ought to give him a medal for pointing out how excess can equate with idiocy. 

5) Ozzy's also set a new standard for old age and infirmity. C'mon, look at the guy. If he's that ditzy and still able to function, then anyone who's even slightly less impaired ought to be able to accomplish wonders by comparison. AARP ought to make him their poster child, and tout him as an example of what seniors can achieve, even when they're basket cases and all the odds are stacked against them. 

4) Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne have proven that show biz marriages can endure. Okay, so she's got a lot of projects that keep her away from home -- and in turn, away from her hubby -- but the fact she still puts up with him speaks volumes about faith and fidelity. They've been married 30 years, an eternity in the world of Rock 'n' Roll. And indeed, on The Osbournes, when Ozzy would roar, "SHAAAAAAAA-ROOOOOOOOOOOON!!!," it became television's most enduring mating call since Fred Flinstone's call to his beloved, "WIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLL-MAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!" 

3) Ozzy literally turned English into its own second language. Who else supposedly speaks English and still demands sub-titles every time he speaks onscreen? Maybe he should travel with his own interpreter. 

2) The ASPCA owes him a big debt of gratitude. Alice Cooper had his snake and Jim Morrison tossed a chicken, but Ozzie's animal exploits are so disgusting, they ought to inspire a flood of donations to animal protection organizations worldwide. It's said he bit off the head of a dove during a meeting with record company execs and spit the head at them as blood dripped from his lips. Another popular tale includes the time he snorted a line of ants with Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx. Lovely. And then there's the incident that found him biting the head off a bat that was tossed onstage. In his defence, the person that tossed it said the bat was already deceased. Somehow, that really doesn't make us feel much better. 

1) Ozzy hangs out in celebrity circles. He famously did a duet with Miss Piggy on the song "Born to Be Wild" and somehow got invited to the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2002. President Bush noted his presence by joking: "The thing about Ozzy is, he's made a lot of big hit recordings -- Party With the Animals, Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath, Facing Hell, Black Skies and Bloodbath in Paradise. Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff." Not a bad comment coming from a fellow former party boy.

Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lee Zimmerman