Black Sabbath are an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler, singer Ozzy Osbourne, and drummer Bill Ward.
The band has since experienced multiple line-up changes, with guitarist Iommi being the only constant presence in the band through the years. Originally formed in 1968 as a blues rock band, the group soon adopted the Black Sabbath moniker and began incorporating occult themes with horror-inspired lyrics and tuned-down guitars.
Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970) and Master of Reality (1971).
They were ranked by MTV as the “Greatest Metal Band” of all time, and placed second in VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” list. Rolling Stone magazine ranked them number 85 in their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
By 1986’s Seventh Star, only Iommi remained from the original lineup. He had to wince when Geezer Butler teamed up with Osbourne, who had since launched a he phenomenally successful solo career, in 1988, though the bassist did return to the fold three years later.
Despite bitterness expressed in the press between Osbourne and Iommi, the original foursome reunited in 1985 at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia, and again in 1992, at the end of what was supposedly Osbourne’s last tour. Throughout 1993 word had it that Osbourne, Iommi, Butler, and Ward would tour, but by year’s end Osbourne had backed out, allegedly over money.
They have sold over 70 million records worldwide. Black Sabbath was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. The new group was initially named the Polka Tulk Blues Band, the name taken either from a brand of talcum powder or an Indian or Pakistani clothing shop; the exact origin is confused.
The Polka Tulk Blues Band featured slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips, a childhood friend of Osbourne’s, and saxophonist Alan “Aker” Clarke. After shortening the name to Polka Tulk, the band again changed their name to Earth (which Osbourne hated) and continued as a four-piece without Phillips and Clarke.
Iommi became concerned that Phillips and Clarke lacked the necessary dedication and were not taking the band seriously. Rather than asking them to leave, they instead decided to break up and then quietly reformed the band as a four-piece.
While the band was performing under the Earth title, they recorded several demos written by Norman Haines such as “The Rebel”, “Song for Jim”, and “When I came Down”.
The demo titled “Song for Jim” was in reference to Jim Simpson. Jim Simpson was a manager for the bands Bakerloo Blues Line and Tea & Symphony. Simpson was also a trumpet player for the group Locomotive.
In 2007, Iommi and Butler reunited with Appice and Dio to record new material for the compilation Black Sabbath: The Dio Years (Number 54); that configuration of the group toured as Heaven and Hell (to avoid being confused with the Osbourne-fronted Black Sabbath) into the year 2008. On April 28, 2009, Heaven and Hell released its debut album, The Devil You Know.