Black Sabbath are an English rock band, formed in Aston, Birmingham in 1968 by Ozzy Osbourne (lead vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass guitar), and Bill Ward (drums). The band has since experienced multiple line-up changes, with Tony Iommi the only constant presence in the band 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 band named Earth, the band began 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 were signed to Philips Records in December 1969, and released their first single, "Evil Woman" in January 1970.
The eponymous “Black Sabbath” was released on Friday the 13th, February 1970. The album reached number 8 in the UK Albums Chart, and following its US and Canadian release in May 1970 by Warner Bros. Records, the album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, where it remained for over a year. It sold in substantial numbers, giving the band their first mainstream exposure. It has since been certified platinum in both US by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and in the UK by British Phonographic Industry (BPI).
To capitalize on their chart success in the US, the band quickly returned to the studio in June 1970, just four months after “Black Sabbath “was released. The new album was initially set to be named “War Pigs” after the song "War Pigs", which was critical of the Vietnam War. However Warner changed the title of the album to “Paranoid,” fearing backlash by supporters of the Vietnam War. The album's lead-off single "Paranoid" was written in the studio at the last minute and reached number four on the UK charts, remaining Black Sabbath's only top ten hit.
Black Sabbath released their second full-length album, “Paranoid” in the UK in October 1970. Pushed by the success of the "Paranoid" single, the album hit number one in the UK. The US release was held until January 1971, as the “Black Sabbath” album was still on the charts at the time of “Paranoid's” UK release. The album reached #12 in the US in March 1971, and would go on to sell four million copies in the US, with virtually no radio airplay. The album's second single "Iron Man" failed to reach the top 40, yet "Iron Man" remains one of Black Sabbath's most popular songs, as well as the band's highest charting US single until 1998's "Psycho Man".
Other Platinum selling albums included 1971’s “Master of Reality,” 1972’s “Black Sabbath Vol. 4” and 1973’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” 1975’s “Sabotage” reached the top 20 in both the US and the UK, but was the band's first release not to achieve Platinum status in the US, only achieving Gold certification. The Gold selling “Technical Ecstasy” (1976) and “Never Say Die!” (1978) followed amidst a series of lineup changes fueled by heavy drug and alcohol use in the band.
Vocalist Ozzy Osbourne's drinking led to his being fired from the band in 1979. He was replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Produced by Martin Birch, “Heaven and Hell,” their first album with Dio at the helm, was released on 25 April 1980. It peaked at number 9 in the UK, and number 28 in the US, the band's highest charting album since “Sabotage.” The album eventually sold a million copies in the US and was certified Platinum.
After a few more albums with Dio's vocals 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
The original line-up reunited with Osbourne in 1997 and released 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.
They have sold over 15 million records in the United States alone. Metallica's Lars Ulrich, along with bandmate James Hetfield inducted Black Sabbath into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.