Why Did Black Sabbath Fire Ozzy Osbourne in the 1970s?
In fact, Osbourne abruptly quit the band in 1977 before having a change of heart and returning the following year. But why was he unceremoniously let go from Black Sabbath in 1979? At that point, the group was a decade into a career where they had practically coined the metal genre for so many.
So why did things end with Ozzy and Sabbath?
As author Jon Wiederhorn remembered, Black Sabbath were in a state of disrepair when they were touring behind their last '70s album with Ozzy, 1978's Never Say Die! On top of constant drug use, the band wasn't particularly proud of the record.
Sabbath fired Osbourne in April 1979 primarily due to his unreliable and erratic behavior fueled by that excessive substance abuse. It had been a persistent issue, affecting his live performances and reliability during recording sessions.
"I think the major problem started from drugs," Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi recalled in a 2019 interview, admitting that Sabbath were basically "falling apart" by that point. But perhaps ironically, Osbourne wasn't the only Sabbath member ingesting substances, as the singer would later counter.
Why Did Black Sabbath Fire Ozzy?
"I can say Ozzy was the first one to have to go, but it was hard," Iommi explained in the same interview. "We had to do something. … Everything was coming to a head, and we had to say, 'Well, what are we gonna do? We're either gonna call it a day or break up, or we've gotta try and find another singer.'"
Though Dave Walker briefly replaced Osbourne during his 1977–78 sabbatical, the late Ronnie James Dio supplanted Osbourne in 1979. Dio would go on to record the following two Sabbath albums, and he returned to the act again in the '90s.
Iommi remembered, "When we replaced Ozzy with Dio, it really did start us off again. … He would sing to the riffs we'd got. ... It's a bit disappointing when you come up with all these riffs and nothing is done."
In the end, Osbourne and Black Sabbath got back together to do a proper farewell in the 2010s and release Sabbath's final album, 2013's 13. But the 1979 incident left its mark on Osbourne.
In his 2009 book I Am Ozzy, the singer writes, "I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel betrayed by what happened with Black Sabbath. We were four blokes who'd grown up together a few streets apart. We were like family, like brothers. And firing me for being f---ed up was hypocritical bulls--t. We were all f---ed up. If you're stoned and I'm stoned and you're telling me that I'm fired because I'm stoned how can that be? Because I'm slightly more stoned than you are?"
Black Sabbath, "A Hard Road" (1978)
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Gallery Credit: Philip Trapp