Black Sabbath are an English rock band, formed in Aston, Birmingham in 1969 by Ozzy Osbourne (lead vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass guitar), and Bill Ward (drums). The lineup has since experienced multiple line-up changes, with Tony Iommi the only constant presence in the group through the years. A total of twenty-two musicians have at one time been members of Black Sabbath. Originally formed as a heavy blues-rock lineup named Earth, the band started incorporating occult- and horror-inspired lyrics with tuned-down guitars, changing their name to Black Sabbath and achieving multiple platinum records in the 1970s. Despite an association with occult and horror themes, Black Sabbath also composed songs dealing with social and political issues such as drugs and war.
Black Sabbath are cited, along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, as pioneers of heavy metal. The band helped define the genre with releases such as quadruple-platinum Paranoid, gave us in 1970. They were ranked by MTV as the “Greatest Metal Band” of all time, and placed second in VH1’s “100 Greatest performers of Hard Rock” list, behind Led Zeppelin. Rolling Stone has posited the band as ‘the heavy-metal kings of the ’70s’. They have sold over 15 million records in the United States alone and more than 50 million records worldwide.
Vocalist Ozzy Osbourne’s heavy alcohol and cocaine usage led to his being fired from the band on April 27, 1979, but Osbourne began a very popular solo career, selling more than 100 million units. He was replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. After a few albums with Dio’s vox and his songwriting collaborations, Black Sabbath endured a revolving line-up in the 1980s and 1990s that included vocalists Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen and Tony Martin. In 1992, Iommi and Butler rejoined Dio and drummer Vinny Appice to record Dehumanizer. The original line-up reunited with Osbourne in 1997 and issued a live album, Reunion. The 1979–1982 and 1991–1992 line-up featuring Iommi, Butler, Dio, and Appice reformed in 2006 under the moniker Heaven & Hell until Dio’s death on 16 May 2010.