Indie News

How Ozzy Came Back From Hell

AS SOON AS a pair of silver vans arrive at the VIP entrance of Birmingham, England’s Alexander Stadium, the whispers start. “Is that Sharon Osbourne?” a squinting security guard asks her friend. 

“I think so,” the other guard says. “Does that mean … ?”

The drivers keep security in the dark — literally — by turning off their dome lights as they wait for Prince Edward to finish a speech for the closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games, a multisport event similar to the Olympics that took place in early August. The vans creep toward the stage. That’s when the crowd of 30,000 hears a bass drum: thump, thump, thump, thump.

“I am Iron Man!” a familiar voice bellows from the ether, as Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi struts onstage. Fifty-four years earlier, Sabbath, whose members all grew up in Birmingham, defied their foregone destinies as steelworkers to forge their own brand of metal. 

A trapdoor opens and a lithe silhouette with arms outstretched levitates to Iommi’s height. “Come on, Birmingham, let’s hear you,” the figure commands as a spotlight reveals Sabbath’s founding frontman, Ozzy Osbourne, sporting a Cheshire-cat smile.

This is when the audience recognizes Birmingham’s hometown hero, and their disbelief turns deafening as the Sabbath guys shift from “Iron Man” to their biggest hit, “Paranoid.” It turns out the performance was such a secret that Ozzy’s son Louis, who happened to be in the audience, is in disbelief as he spots his dad onstage.

I join Sharon and Kelly Osbourne in the front row, among the athletes. They appear overjoyed, and for good reason. This is Ozzy’s first onstage appearance in nearly three years, after a series of injuries and surgeries that left him thinking he might never perform again. 

Ozzy’s health looked dire there for a while. But here he is uttering catchphrases like “Let’s go crazy!” and “God bless you all!” without missing a beat. As the song ends and pyro streams around him, he howls, “Birmingham forever!” 

As soon as the lights dim, he and his family escape to their vans to beat the street closures Brits are accustomed to whenever a royal makes a public appearance. Forget Prince Edward — make way for the Prince of Darkness. 

When I meet Osbourne the next afternoon in a posh London hotel suite, he’s just woken up. “I must have been fucking exhausted because I never sleep this late,” he says, tumbling onto a couch. He situates himself for maximum comfort and asks for a Diet Coke.

He’s dressed casually in a black T-shirt and black track pants. Ozzy, 73, stopped coloring his hair during the pandemic and has pulled his salt-and-pepper locks back into a small ponytail. He’s sporting purple-lensed Lennon shades, but when he pulls them down, his blue eyes still pierce with intensity. Occasionally, he fiddles with his hearing aids. Even though he uses a silver-filigreed cane to get around and fidgets like he’s in pain while seated for our two-and-a-half–hour first interview, the Birmingham performance has visibly brightened his spirits. He’s constantly animated, throwing pillows around and making eye contact to underscore a point. “Fuck” is still his favorite word — he uses it exactly 540 times in the few hours that we spend together, approximately two-and-a-half times per minute — and he uses it impressively in a variety of ways and inflections. 

“Up until last night, I was semi-retired,” he says, lifting his head for emphasis. “For three years, I’m thinking, ‘I’m never going onstage.’ I kind of half-bought myself into the fact that [my performing career] was over.”

Osbourne’s agony began in 2018, during what was supposed to be his final world tour. He contracted a potentially deadly staph infection, likely from shaking fans’ hands at a meet and greet, which swelled his thumb up to the size of a lightbulb. He eventually felt healthy enough to headline a New Year’s Eve Ozzfest, but soon after, he fell at home in the middle of the night and aggravated a spinal injury he’d initially suffered during a nearly fatal quad-bike accident in 2003. After the 2019 tumble, the Iron Man found himself with two metal plates in his neck. 

Osbourne postponed months of tour dates as he underwent extensive physical therapy and treatment for what he calls “scrambled nerves” in his arm and leg. During his recovery, he recorded an album, 2020’s Ordinary Man, which featured Elton John, Slash, and Post Malone. As he was promoting it, he revealed doctors had diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease. Then Covid happened. Osbourne avoided the plague until this past April. His symptoms were mild, but since then, he says, his hair has been falling out and his fingernails are breaking off. “I can’t begin to tell you how fucked up I felt,” he says.

Ross Halfin

In June, he underwent corrective surgery that Sharon told the media would “determine the rest of his life.” Afterward, the screws in the metal plates in his neck were digging into his spine and leaving debris. “It was a fucking nightmare,” Sharon says. Thankfully, the surgeon removed the plates, and Ozzy has felt better since. 

That paved the way for the Birmingham appearance. “I can’t really believe it happened,” Sharon tells me later. “They asked us six months ago, and we had to say no. And then they called us literally days before to say, ‘We’d seen Ozzy [make an appearance] at Comic-Con, and he seems to be doing well. Do you think he could do it?’ And I asked Ozzy, and he was like, ‘Yeah. Why not?’”

After the performance, Osbourne shared his excitement with Billy Morrison, a close friend who plays guitar in Billy Idol’s band. “He texted me, ‘We came, we saw, we conquered,’” Morrison says. “I just said, ‘I knew you would.’”

Ozzy may look like the picture of confidence when he’s onstage, but offstage he’s his own worst critic. “I never think I’m going to win,” he says. Before the Birmingham concert, he was worrying: “These kids don’t know who the fuck I am.” 

In fact, Osbourne has been making comebacks his whole life. After grade school teachers slipped a dunce cap on him, he went on to co-found Sabbath and help invent heavy metal. When Sabbath kicked him out, he became a solo superstar. He thumbed his nose at Lollapalooza’s organizers when they called him a dinosaur and formed his own Ozzfest. He even survived fickle TV fame with The Osbournes, laying the groundwork for reality-TV families like the Kardashians.

He’s sold more than 100 million albums. He’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Black Sabbath. He even set a Guinness World Record for leading the “longest scream by a crowd” at Dodger Stadium. “You got to put him right there with Sinatra and Elvis, as far as frontmen go,” says Zakk Wylde, Osbourne’s off-and-on guitarist for the past 35 years. “None of his peers does the business he does. It’s like saying, ‘Where does Babe Ruth fit in the history of baseball?’ It’s that huge.”

Now, he has a ripping new album, Patient Number 9, featuring guest appearances by Iommi, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck, as well as members of Metallica, Pearl Jam, Guns N’ Roses, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The crazy train finally seems to be back on track.

“You know Winston Churchill used to stay here?” Osbourne asks, admiring the gold-leafed ornamentation on the walls of his suite. Claridge’s opened in 1898, and the hotel is still the sort of place where top-hatted men in heavy coats open your car door for you. “Sharon loves it here,” Ozzy notes.

Following his most recent surgery, when Osbourne’s stamina was at his lowest, he told his wife, “I’m sorry if I’m a burden.” She told him not to be silly. “My family have been fucking terrific — my kids, my wife — they’ve been so fucking supportive and so patient,” he says. So have his friends.

“We’re in touch quite a lot,” Iommi, who lives in England, thousands of miles from the Osbournes’ L.A. home, told me last year. “We don’t really speak because the pair of us are useless on the phone. He used to phone me at two o’clock in the morning, and I’d go, ‘Ozz, it’s two o’clock in the morning.’ ‘Oh, oh, sorry. All right. Bye.’ He forgets what time it is in England, and of course when the phone goes at that time of the morning you think, ‘Oh, Christ. Somebody’s died or something has happened.’ So we tend to sort of just text now.”

In addition to rebuilding his body, Osbourne has been reconstituting his confidence. Sometimes he’ll tell Sharon, “Performing is the only thing I’ve done in my life that’s right or that I’m good at.” 

“I tell him, ‘It’s not true,’” she says. “He’s had his struggles, and they’ve all been very public. But it’s not true; he’s hard on himself.”

Ozzy first met Sharon in the mid-Seventies when her dad, Don Arden, started managing Sabbath. “I grinned at [Sharon], but she gave me a wary look,” Ozzy recalled in his 2009 memoir, I Am Ozzy. “She probably thought I was a lunatic, standing there in my pyjama shirt with no shoes on…”

“I always thought that Ozzy had a beautiful face and was really different, personality-wise, but I was a little apprehensive,” she says now. “I’d been used to going out with lawyers and people that worked at record companies, and he was very different, and all of those people I found incredibly boring.”

Ozzy was far from boring, though, when Sharon visited him shortly after he was fired from Sabbath in 1979 for intoxicating himself to the point of uselessness. “I just wanted to get fucked up,” he says. “It was over.” Still, she saw a spark inside of him and encouraged him to try a solo career; she even became his manager. Although Ozzy was still married to his first wife, Thelma, with whom he had three children, Ozzy and Sharon fell in love.

With Randy Rhoads

Chris Walter/WireImage

Ozzy hired a backing band, which prominently featured Randy Rhoads. The Quiet Riot guitarist had an unusual approach to heavy metal, inspired more by Beethoven than Sabbath, and a glammy look. On songs like “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley,” they laid the groundwork for Osbourne’s next four decades — swift-moving, quasi-gothic salvos with strong melodies that you can sing along to and showstopping guitar solos. “Ozzy’s voice has always been a godsend to me,” says Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, who performed and co-wrote songs on Patient Number 9. “It’s just beautiful — the soul, the grease, the grit, and even the notes that he may struggle with are part of what makes him so special.” Sharon cleverly encouraged Ozzy to headline smaller venues, rather than open for more-established acts, setting him up for a shorter leap back to the top.

After Thelma divorced Ozzy, he and Sharon figured out how their business life would function alongside their romance. “Ozzy would say to me, ‘Are you making me do these things, especially things like TV interviews, because you love me or because you are my manager?’” she recalls. “I’d say, ‘You need to promote yourself.’ And he’d be like, ‘Are you my wife or my manager telling me this?’ And I’m like, ‘Both.’”

Thanks to Sharon’s sharp management, hits like “Crazy Train,”  and a series of notorious press, uh, opportunities — like Ozzy drunkenly biting the heads off a dove and a bat — he was soon doing better business than Black Sabbath, which had continued with new singer Ronnie James Dio.

The party ended quickly, though, in March 1982, when the tour’s bus driver used a day off to entice Rhoads and hairdresser Rachel Youngblood onto a private plane. When he tried to buzz the tour bus, the plane flew into a mansion, killing everyone on board. “I had two fucking funerals in one week — it was awful,” Osbourne says. “Since then, I can’t go to funerals anymore. It just puts me in a freakout. I just couldn’t go to my family members’ funerals.” 

On July 4, 1982, Ozzy and Sharon married in Maui, Hawaii. This year, they celebrated their 40th anniversary by going to a hotel and locking the door. “We had the best time, never left the room, got room service, talked about our lives together,” Sharon says. “It was perfect for us.”

“I bought Sharon a ruby, ’cause it’s our ruby anniversary,” Ozzy says. “I paid a lot of money for it — $150,000 — for this tiny ruby. I said to Sharon, ‘I think these fucking guys ripped me off. I wouldn’t pay 70 grand for it.’ Rubies are really rare.”

After Rhoads’ death, Osbourne soldiered through the Eighties with guitarists Jake E. Lee and Wylde by his side, scoring MTV hits with “Bark at the Moon” and “Shot in the Dark.” “I felt like the luckiest contest winner of all time,” says Wylde, who joined Osbourne at 19. “I’d be pinching myself.” 

Meanwhile, Osbourne’s drinking and drugging escalated. While admiring Claridge’s fireplace, Osbourne twice mentions that he tried to strangle Sharon during a blackout episode in 1989. “It wasn’t my idea to go out, have a few drinks, and wake up in jail charged with attempted murder,” he says, still kicking himself.

Sharon eventually dropped the charges. “He was sent to a lockdown, and we were apart for a long time while he was in treatment,” Sharon says. “At first, I had relief in my life. But then after a couple of months, I missed him so much. The children were missing their dad every day. ‘When’s Daddy coming home?’ And I missed him. I missed his craziness.” She took him back.

Osbourne has tested the limits of his marriage since. In 2013, as Sabbath were launching their first album with Ozzy since they fired him, he became addicted to pain pills before sobering up. Then in 2016, Sharon learned Ozzy had been carrying on an affair with his hairstylist. Ozzy then sought what he described as “intense therapy” for sex addiction. The couple stuck together.

When I ask Osbourne why his marriage has survived, he shrugs. “I don’t know, but I’ve got a good wife, I think,” he says. “She’s been in rock & roll all her life. But she loves me, I love her. I haven’t been the exact perfect husband, but she’s fucking right about a lot of things.”

“I knew that I was marrying an alcoholic,” Sharon says. “So what did I expect other than a bumpy ride? We’ve had more good times than bad. So I regret nothing. I saved Ozzy, and he saved me.”

“Is it hot in here or am I  . . . fucking hell,” Osbourne says. “We haven’t quite reached America yet with the air conditioning [in England].”

After a couple of hours speaking in the suite downstairs at Claridge’s, we’ve moved into his family’s room upstairs, where he’s about to take a nap. You wouldn’t know the room was his, though, since he travels minimally. His travel philosophy is simple: “You just grab a bag and get on a plane.” But he’s also lucky to have Sharon and Kelly with him, as well as various people who work for the Osbournes. Several tell me they’ve worked for the family for more than a decade and that they wouldn’t want any other job.

Ozzy, barefoot, lies supine on a couch in front of a bay window overlooking London’s posh Mayfair neighborhood (Buckingham Palace is walkable from here) as he gripes about the country’s well-publicized summer heat wave. “People don’t believe that climate change is real,” he says frustratingly. “Look out the fucking window. Everything’s all frizzled.”

Osbourne’s politics lean liberal. Four years of Donald Trump, a man he likens to “A.H. — Adolf Hitler,” had him worried the president would blow up the planet. Yesterday, as Osbourne and Iommi were reuniting in Birmingham, the FBI raided Trump’s Florida home, Mar-a-Lago — and Osbourne gleefully watched the news reports. He has also been enjoying seeing Jan. 6 insurrectionists get indicted. “They’re dishing out some sentences,” he says. “They should do [Trump].” 

Ozzy and Sharon are planning to return to their 350-acre estate outside of London next year. Although Ozzy has quipped that he’s leaving America because he’s afraid of mass shootings, he offers a more-reasonable explanation to me: He wants to be closer to his family in England and avoid high taxes that, he thinks, are coming to America to help rebuild after the pandemic.

As we’re chatting, Kelly enters to say hi. She, too, has had it with England’s heat wave, especially since she’s visibly pregnant with her first child with boyfriend and Slipknot keyboardist Sid Wilson. (They met at Ozzfest.) When she leaves the room, Ozzy beams with pride and tells me the gender of Kelly’s unborn baby. And in a delightfully Osbournes moment, Kelly yells from another room, “Dad!” His pride turns sheepish, and he says, “Sorry.” When she’s out of earshot, he tells me, “I’m kind of over the moon. She looks really well.”

Ozzy with Sharon, Kelly, and Jack when The Osbournes ruled reality TV

Michael Yarish/MTV/Getty Images

This past March marked the 20th anniversary of The Osbournes, the reality series that put Ozzy’s family under a microscope for three years while turning them into superstars. He recalls the moment when he realized just how big the show had gotten. “I was traveling along the 405 one day, and I said to my guy, ‘I need to go to the bathroom. Pull over where you can,’” he recalls. “He pulled over at this quite-big McDonald’s. I went into the bathroom; it was fucking empty. By the time I got out, the fucking entire restaurant was out in the car park by my car.

At the time, he wondered, “Have I sacrificed one career for another?” But enough time has passed that he sees it differently. “Three years of that was fucking nuts,” he continues. “The kids were all drinking booze and doing this and that. I was back on booze, because when you have a camera crew in your fucking house 24/7, you start to get fucking freaked out, you know? 

“I have to take my hat off to the Kardashians, although I don’t understand it. They must be fucking thick-skinned, because that would drive me fucking nuts. It’s been going now for 15 years or something.”

Despite Osbourne’s misgivings, the BBC announced in early September that the family would be rebooting the series as Ozzy and Sharon settle back into their Buckinghamshire abode, promising to touch on Kelly’s soon-to-be-born child and Ozzy’s upcoming tour, among other topics. (Unlike Ozzy, Sharon likes doing TV. She served as a judge on The X Factor and America’s Got Talent before joining The Talk as a co-host in 2010. For 11 seasons, she offered hot takes on current events, sometimes playing the heel in debates. She left the show last year after a dust-up with co-host Sheryl Underwood, centering around Sharon’s support for her friend, British journalist Piers Morgan, who had come under fire for racist comments about Meghan Markle. “Please hear me when I say I do not condone racism, misogyny, or bullying,” Osbourne tweeted later. She now hosts a chat show, also called The Talk, on the British network TalkTV.)

Reflecting on The Osbournes’ original run, Ozzy is proud of his kids for weathering TV megafame. Jack now hosts TV shows and is producing a biopic about Ozzy and Sharon’s romance. (Ozzy wants an unknown to play him, not “fucking Johnny Depp.”) Kelly was a commentator on Fashion Police for several years and appeared on The Masked Singer. Aimee, the couple’s eldest daughter, who chose not to appear on the show, records synth-wave music under the moniker ARO.

Ozzy is especially impressed by his eldest son, Louis, who “does these fucking iron-man things.” Once I clarify he means athletics and not Ozzy’s kind of “Iron Man,” he explains: “He cycled fucking 15 miles, swam something, like, 10 miles, ran 20 miles, bikes. The last one took him nearly 14 hours. I said, ‘Louis, that’s why they invented fucking cars.’” 

Sharon is still Ozzy’s lodestar. His darkest place — “the one thing that I’m fucking freaking myself out about,” he says — is when he imagines Sharon dying before him. “That’s a fucking no-no for me,” he says, readjusting his position on the couch. “I couldn’t survive without her. She’s everything. At the end of the day, I wish we could both go lie down and go off together, but it don’t work that way. I don’t know how people get over that.”

By his own estimation, Ozzy is unusually excited about his new album. When Andrew Watt, a 31-year-old producer whose credits include Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, suggested Osbourne ask Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck — two guitarists who played in one of his favorite bands, the Yardbirds — to play on his record, the Prince of Darkness scoffed. “I’m going, ‘Andrew, they’re going to think I’m fucking mad,’” he says, adding, “Well, I am.” When both agreed, Osbourne couldn’t believe his luck.

“Ozzy acts like a fan,” Sharon says. “Ozzy’s a fan of Eric and Jeff Beck. And so for him, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow. I actually got to work with those people.’”

A few years back, he and Wylde went to see Elton John live. “It was just hit after hit after hit after hit,” the guitarist says. “Me and Ozzy were just watching, high-fiving each other, fist-bumping each other after ‘Rocket Man’ or ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.’ We’re like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing.’ I go, ‘You’re not too shabby either, bro.’ He just giggled. He doesn’t view himself with his peers.”

Other guests on Patient Number 9 include Iommi and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. Metallica’s Trujillo,​​ and Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan play bass, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith and the late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins both sit behind the kit. It’s a This Is Your Life collection of the artists who influenced, played with, and were inspired by Osbourne, and, even with all the star power, it never feels like anything other than an Ozzy Osbourne album. 

The only thing Sharon asked Watt for with Patient Number 9 was that the album be heavier than Ordinary Man. Enter Tony Iommi. When I ask about “Degradation Rules,” one of two tracks with Iommi on guitar, Osbourne asks, “You know what that’s about, don’t you?” before making the universal jerk-off gesture. Besides drumming on the album, Hawkins made a key lyrical contribution, according to Ozzy: “He was the one that came up with the lyric ‘RedTube rules’ on that. Is it BlueTube or RedTube?”

“Ozzy didn’t even know what RedTube was,” Watt says, referring to the porn site. “He cuts the line and Taylor jumps up and goes, ‘Yes!’ We told him what RedTube was afterward, and we were just crying.”  

Kidding aside, Osbourne was stricken when Hawkins died suddenly this March. “The saddest thing,” Osbourne says. “He was a nice guy.”

As Osbourne sits on the couch, he hums a bit of “Degradation Rules.” “The song has a great structure on it,” he says. “That would’ve made a great track on [Black Sabbath’s] 13 album.”

So what makes a good Ozzy song? “Dark, twisted Beatles,” Watt says. “Heavy, evil chord progressions.”

“For me, the key ingredients in an Ozzy song recipe are always strong, soulful vocal melodies, beautiful yet dark chordal movements, like in ‘Diary of a Madman,‘ and a powerful riff, pulse, or groove from the rhythm section, which is present on any classic Ozzy or Sabbath song,” Trujillo says. “Ozzy loves bass. He used to tell me, ‘Rob, I’m your best friend.’”

Watt’s ad-hoc ensembles made an album that rocks harder than Ordinary Man without losing sight of Osbourne’s love of melody. The title track is an intricately arranged, gothic rocker about losing your mind — something Osbourne can relate to — with a jazzy, expressionistic Jeff Beck solo. “Parasite” shows off Ozzy’s oddball sense of humor (“I like worms,” he says in a spoken-word section) amid Trujillo’s propulsive bass and a brilliant Wylde solo. The charging “Immortal” features McCready, a guitarist whose band, Pearl Jam, helped displace mainstream metal like Ozzy’s from radio in the early Nineties, but here, his abstract playing gives a punkish edge. Ozzy even suggested the guitar riffs for that one, singing them into Watt’s voicemail.

The only artist Osbourne had a little trouble working with was Eric Clapton, who added tasteful, bluesy melodies to the ballad “One of Those Days,” a track Watt says he and Ozzy wrote in a way that would inspire Clapton to use a wah-wah. The chorus — “It’s one of those days when I don’t believe in Jesus” — had come about as Osbourne chatted with Watt about a school shooting he’d seen on the news; it was a statement about humanity. “When I sent it to Eric Clapton, he said, ‘I’m not really so keen on those words,’” Osbourne recalls. “So we did try and change it: ‘I don’t believe it’s here yet’ or something. But sometimes when you put something down, you capture a moment.” Osbourne pushed back and eventually Clapton backed down. (Through a rep, Clapton declined to comment on this story.)

Clapton wasn’t the only speedbump. Everyone had to mind Osbourne’s health, especially during the pandemic. “It wasn’t safe for Ozzy to leave the house,” Watt says. “We fuckin’ spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on testing to make sure that he was safe in the process of making this album.”

As we talk, Osbourne mentions friends and peers who have died, often of alcoholism. Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham once challenged Osbourne to “a race” with 12 bottles of champagne and 12 large scotches. “I said, ‘You can fuck off,’” he laughs. (Bonham got through four bottles and shots before puking.) And then there’s Lemmy, who impressed Osbourne by downing a bottle of bourbon a day for over a month. The Motörhead frontman’s stated goal was to “try one of each.”

Osbourne can’t explain why he survived when so many friends didn’t. “He has been friends with and worked with some of the most iconic artists in the last five decades, and most of them are dead,” says Morrison “That comes into his mind, and he sits there going, ‘And I’m still here.’” Once, when he listed all of the drugs and drinking he’d done for his physician, the doc said, “Why are you alive?” Osbourne couldn’t answer that question then and still can’t today.

He’s been sober for nine years — according to Sharon. Ozzy doesn’t keep count, and in fact always found the calendar-keeping associated with Alcoholics Anonymous to be a nuisance. “The way I approached it was, if I had one leg amputated, I wouldn’t want to sit in a room for the rest of my life talking to other people about how I lost my leg,” he says. “I just have to adapt and get on with it.

“Now, I don’t think about it,” he says. “I don’t drink. It’s never on my mind anymore. The thing that I took from AA was, ‘One’s too many and 10 is not enough.’” (If that line sounds familiar, yes, he used it in his 1988 song “Demon Alcohol.”)

“He drank at first because he didn’t have confidence and it made him feel good,” Sharon says. “It gave him the confidence that he didn’t have. And then it turns on you. As the disease progresses, people always get nasty, and they do bad things and fuck their lives up.”

Osbourne says the reason he stays inside these days isn’t because he’s so famous that he would attract a parking-lot mob but because he’s just no fun anymore. Mostly, he’s a homebody who enjoys watching the History channel or walking around his estate. “I don’t have many celebrity showbiz friends,” he says. “I just do my own thing. I don’t like to go to places where they all hang out: I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs anymore. I’m quite fucking boring.”

Once, around age 60, he decided to get his driver’s license and bought a Ferrari convertible. He invited Morrison to come over and asked him to drive it. When they were speeding down the 101, Osbourne felt the impulse to put the roof down and the wind caught it, turning it into a parachute trailing them. Morrison started screaming and crossed six lanes and pulled into a gas station so Ozzy could call Sharon and tell her he broke the Ferrari. “You asked me what it’s like being friends with Ozzy; that’s what it’s like being friends with Ozzy,” Morrison says, laughing. “I swear to God there were people there, but I don’t think they actually believed it was Ozzy because we’re both out of the car in a fucking 76 gas station scratching our heads. They left us alone.”

As we round hour three of interviews, Osbourne — still on the couch, tossing around pillows — realizes he’s been talking a lot. “I think you’re not writing an article,” he says, “you’re writing a fucking encyclopedia.”

I explain that with all the headlines about his health, people want simply to know how he’s doing. “I’m doing as good as I can be, considering the fucking crap,” he says. “If you’d have seen me a year or so ago, you’d have thought, ‘No. No way.’ I couldn’t fucking move because of what the guy did wrong on the first surgery.”

“We’re going to sue,” Sharon says later. “You just don’t want other people to go through what you’ve gone through. It’s a fucking nightmare. But here we are today, and life is better.”

Ozzy leans forward on the couch and drops his hair as if he’s about to start headbanging, but instead he lets it dangle and points out a one-and-a-half–inch scar at the base of his neck. “I was so bad for a while,” he says earnestly. Life seems manageable. His corrective surgery so far seems like a success. His Parkinson’s is under control; when he holds his arms in front of him, they’re still, thanks to a pill he takes three times a day. Now, he just has to get back in shape so he can play some proper gigs. 

Beyond getting back onstage, what’s left for Osbourne to achieve? “Knighthood,” he deadpans before cracking into a laugh. “I don’t think I’ll ever get knighted. Fuck that.” 

Osbourne then stands up to disappear into the evening — or at least his bedroom for a little more relaxation. As we say our goodbyes, I ask if he ever feels sorry for himself with all of his health maladies or if he feels like he’s just hardwired to get on with it. “I’m no different to anybody else,” he says. “I just refuse to die.” 

Comments Off on How Ozzy Came Back From Hell