This Day in ’80: Black Sabbath with Dio
40 years ago today, Black Sabbath began their first tour with Ronnie James Dio fronting the band rather than Ozzy Osbourne.
The problems started when Black Sabbath settled in to begin the process of making a follow up to their 1978 album Never Say Die! “Trying to write this stuff, it was hard, but what made it next to impossible was that Ozzy wasn’t into it,” recalled Tony Iommi in his autobiography, Iron Man. “He was on another planet. We’d try and motivate him, saying, ‘Any ideas?’ ‘No, I can’t think of anything. And then he’d pass out on the couch. It was frustrating, because it was going on and on and we were getting nowhere.”
When Warner Brothers asked about the status of the album, Iommi was forced to lie through his teeth and assure the label that things were going great and that the tracks were sounding good. Neither statement was true.
“I think Ozzy just lost interest in it all,” wrote Iommi. “We had about three ideas down, musically, but we didn’t know where to go next without Ozzy’s input. We’d write a song, and then he’d go, ‘I don’t want to sing on it.’ He sang a bit on ‘Children of the Sea,’ and then he sort of fizzled away. It finally got to a point where we said, ‘If Ozzy can’t do it, we’re going to have to either break up or we are going to have to bring somebody else in.’”
As history reveals, Ozzy couldn’t do it. As such, Bill Ward went to him and said, “We’re going to have to move on.”
Ironically, the solution to Black Sabbath’s problem was technically suggested by the future wife of the man who was about to get the boot from the band: Sharon Levy, soon to be Sharon Osbourne, introduced Iommi to Ronnie James Dio at a party, suggesting that the two should do a project together outside of Black Sabbath. Instead, Iommi just invited him to replace Ozzy.
It took some time for Sabbath to get into the groove with Dio, but by the following year, the band had released a new album – HEAVEN & HELL – and were hitting the road. In the end, the partnership between Dio and Sabbath wasn’t destined to a seriously long-term situation, but they did release a couple of solid studio albums together as well as a live album, and a few years later they’d reunite to do another album: 1992’s DEHUMANIZER.