Born in Birmingham, England, on December 3, 1948, John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne started his career as a musician in the late 60s, as he, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward banded together, seeking to escape the trappings of factory life in their shared hometown.
The foursome began to take shape as a blues band – influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Cream – calling themselves Earth Blues Company (later shortened to Earth). Osbourne channeled his love of soul music (particularly Sam and Dave) to his duties as frontman, but the group took a tectonic shift after Osbourne penned a song about Butler's encounter with a sinister spectre, calling the song "Black Sabbath."
The band eventually took Black Sabbath as their name – and the title of their 1970 debut album. The group would go on to release such heavy metal classics as Paranoid, Master of Reality, Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, effectively defining the heavy metal genre and making Osbourne the voice of it. Osbourne's delivery was melodic and well-pitched, and he never resorted to the sort of histrionic screaming that became a hallmark of metal’s lesser lights.
Osbourne took his heavy metal charge solo in 1978. With his first two studio albums, Blizzard Of Oz and Diary Of A Madman (recorded with virtuoso guitarist and friend Randy Rhoads), Osbourne became an in-demand solo artist, riding on the strength of powerful tracks such as "Crazy Train" and "Flying High Again."
Following the death of Rhoads, Osbourne rebounded in 1983 with Bark At The Moon, gaining extensive MTV airplay for the album's title track video. Osbourne's mark on the 90s was loudly heard with the release of No More Tears, which featured the hits "Mama, I'm Coming Home" (a song written with Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead) and "No More Tears."
That same decade saw the advent of the concert juggernaut Ozzfest, which preceded the reformation of Black Sabbath featuring the original lineup, and the subsequent release of the live album Reunion in 1998. Osbourne's ninth and 10th studio albums, Black Rain and Scream, arrived in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Recently, news was released of another reunion of Osbourne, Butler, Iommi and Ward, though this time the original Black Sabbath lineup is at work on an album of new material with veteran producer Rick Rubin.
With a career spanning more than four decades, Osbourne has been a singular force in heavy metal. The Rock Hall selected 10 essential songs we feel highlight his versatility, range and longevity as a singer and performer, from the evocative pleas of "Black Sabbath" and tender emoting of "Changes" to his charismatic presence in "Flying High Again" and his razor sharp singing on "No More Tears" to his signature delivery in the industrial-tinged bombast of 2007's "I Don't Wanna Stop."