When Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne are mentioned in the same conversation, is there a favorite song list that comes to mind? What are the top ten Black Sabbath songs, as sung by Ozzy Osbourne while he was with the band from 1968 until 1979? There are so many to choose from as the energy he poured into his vocal performances rightfully earned him the unofficial title “Godfather of Metal.” Here is a list of our favorite Black Sabbath songs when Ozzy Osbourne stood in front of that vocal microphone center stage.
Top 10 Ozzy Osbourne Black Sabbath Songs
#10 – N.I.B.
“N.I.B.” was the fourth song from Black Sabbath’s debut album, which was released in 1970. This was performed with Ozzy Osbourne in the role of Lucifer as he sang about falling in love and becoming a better person because of it. When this song first came out, there was speculation about what the initials stood for. According to Geezer Butler, it was simply referencing the beard their drummer at the time wore. As far as Black Sabbath was concerned, it looked like a pen nib.
There was no real thought put into the song’s title other than initializing it to seem more interesting. Of course, fans have active imaginations. By the time this became a song Americans heard, it adopted “Nativity in Black” as an expansion to the original title. Although this song didn’t chart in 1970 when it was released, it inspired Ugly Kid Joe to cover ‘N.I.B.” in 2000. It peaked as high as number two on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. This song has gone down in history as a Black Sabbath favorite during the Ozzy Osbourne era.
#9 – Hole in the Sky
1975’s “Hole in the Sky” was a song that came from the album Sabotage. At the time, the irate band members of Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne, and Tony Iommi were playing out their frustrations against their former management team. As lead vocalist, Osbourne’s concern about pollution was matched with the heavy riffs performed by Tony Iommi. The abrupt ending at the end of “Hole in the Sky” was designed as an angry cutoff before leading into the next track, “Don’t Start (Too Late).” On its own, “Hole in the Sky” is one of Black Sabbath’s best works while Ozzy Osbourne was still the lead vocalist. Bill Ward’s performance as the drummer added that extra jolt of soul to a song that helped make the song feel even more apocalyptic.
#8 – Sweet Leaf
“Sweet Leaf” was a song featured on the 1971 album, Master of Reality. Since its release, it has joined the ranks as one of Black Sabbath’s signature songs. Originally performed by Ozzy Osbourne as the band’s lead vocalist, the song started out with Tony Iommi coughing. This set the tone of a song that revolved around cannabis. The title of it came from a pack of Irish cigarettes that used “Sweet Leaf” as part of its slogan. The 1970s was a musical era that featured recording artists frequently smoking hashish and marijuana.
“Sweet Leaf” was among the first songs to inspire a trend that still plays a prominent role in the lifestyle of a musician looking to make the most out of their career as a performer. While some seemed to have no trouble respecting cannabis in moderation, this wasn’t always the case with everyone. Unfortunately for Ozzy Osbourne, this was a gateway drug that eventually led to substance abuse that would engineer his downfall as a member of Black Sabbath.
#7 – The Wizard
“The Wizard” featured Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne singing as a wizard whose mission was to use magic to influence each person he encountered. The inspiration behind this song came from the J.R.R. Tolkein novel, The Lord of the Rings, and its character, Gandalf. It also came after Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne encountered a giddy man who was dancing about outside of a club. At the time, Butler and Osbourne were in the middle of a high after consuming a controlled substance. Not only did Osbourne provide the lead vocals of “The Wizard,” but he was also the man behind the harmonica.
#6 – Children of the Grave
From the 1971 album, Master of Reality, “Children of the Grave” was a song that had Ozzy Osbourne’s Black Sabbath speak out again against war. As a song, it’s regarded by fans and critics as one of the group’s classics. It’s been covered by recording artists who look up to Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, and “Children of the Grave” as sources of inspiration to fuel their own careers. Despite Black Sabbath’s reputation as a Satanic group, songs like “Children of the Grave” proved there was more to the band than met the eye. Osbourne’s vocal plea to focus on love instead of war was well-performed and well-received.
#5 – Evil Woman
“Evil Woman” was Black Sabbath’s debut single, which was released shortly before the debut of their first album in 1970. This was actually a cover from the 1969 original version performed by Crow. Also released in 1969, Black Sabbath’s version didn’t chart as Crow’s did. However, with Ozzy Osbourne as lead vocalist, this was enough to make a strong impression on the audience. This version was more sinister, which was exactly what Black Sabbath wanted. The beauty behind “Evil Woman” was this wasn’t just some heavy metal tune. There was some blues influence put into it, which added even more drama to a song about a woman who clearly betrayed the wrong person.
#4- Iron Man
Released in 1970 from the album, Paranoid, “Iron Man” ultimately became one of Black Sabbath’s signature songs as sung by Ozzy Osbourne. However, the highlight came from Tony Iommi’s guitar performance which made this song feel like it was performed by machines instead of people. This was the effect Geezer Butler and his bandmates wanted as they performed the song as a sci-fi horror that also dabbled into the occult. The distortion of Osbourne’s vocals was also one of the highlights as it sounded like metal was ground about to sound like a person. Creatively speaking, “Iron Man” was a musical masterpiece.
In 1972, “Iron Man” peaked as high as number fifty-two on the US Billboard Hot 100. This became the highest-charting Black Sabbath song as a recording artist. It also peaked as high as number sixty-eight in Canada. The live version of this song featured in Reunion earned Black Sabbath a 2000 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. The legacy of “Iron Man” includes the non-related movie, Iron Man, which was used in the ending credits when it was released in 2008. It was also used in the video game named after it. In 2010, it was used as part of Iron Man 2’s movie trailer. In the UK, “Iron Man” sold over 250,000 copies and has been certified silver.
#3 – War Pigs
In 1970, it wasn’t just some of the people in the United States that disagreed with their government’s involvement in the Vietnam War. This was also the case in the United Kingdom. At the time, Black Sabbath did its part with “War Pigs” as an anti-war protest song. Originally titled “Walpurgis,” this was a song that illustrated war and Satan sharing the exact same qualities. The title was changed to “War Pigs” as it was felt at the time “Walpurgis” was too offensive. According to Satanic culture, “Walpurgis” is a form of celebration that witnesses the mass gathering of practitioners of the occult.
At the time, Geezer Butler was concerned the recently lifted mandate for men to serve the British army would be reinstated due to the conflict going on in Vietnam. He, along with so many young men, was concerned they’d be drafted for duty in a war they didn’t believe in. “War Pigs” became one of Black Sabbath’s signature songs that featured Ozzy Osbourne as the lead vocalist. There were enough copies of “War Pigs” sold in the UK to become certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry. This was one of the many key songs featured on Paranoid that turned it into a multi-platinum seller worldwide.
#2 – Black Sabbath
After noticing a long lineup at a movie theater featuring a 1963 horror flick, the aspiring trio of Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, and Ozzy Osbourne became inspired. Black Sabbath became so much more than the band’s new name. It also became their first studio album. As a single, “Black Sabbath” became a song after Butler explained a dream episode he had with Osbourne. The story included a Satanic book Osbourne gifted Butler with that mysteriously disappeared once he woke up from his unusual dream experience.
Fans of Black Sabbath may recall Butler’s dream of a mysterious figure that stood before him. Butler’s dream experience was written in the form of a song. It also laid out the groundwork for the rest of Black Sabbath as an album. This also dictated the musical direction of the group that would make such a big impact. Although this song didn’t appear in any official music charts when it was first released, it was regarded as one of the band’s best songs they ever performed while Ozzy Osbourne served as their frontman.
#1 – Paranoid
When talking about Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne in the same breath, “Paranoid” was usually the first song that came to mind among fans. This was released in 1970 as a single from the album of the same name. It became the group’s first big hit as it peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it was a number sixty-one hit. For Black Sabbath, “Paranoid” was originally a song that was thrown in as a filler to make the band’s second studio album complete. At the time, when “Paranoid” was heard as a song it became a source of controversy. Some felt it was encouraging suicide while others saw it as a source of inspiration to enjoy life. Despite “Paranoid” as a song title, not once was the word used in the lyrics.
“Paranoid” became Black Sabbath’s most popular song overall. Ozzy Osbourne’s vocal performance, combined with Tony Iommi’s guitar riffs, turned this unintentional hit into the band’s signature song. Aside from charting in the UK and the US, it also peaked as high as number one on the Danish Singles Chart and the German Singles Chart. It was at least a top-ten hit in Austria, France, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, and Switzerland. In sales, enough copies were sold to certify “Paranoid” platinum with the British Phonographic Industry and Italy’s Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana (FIMI). It was certified gold in Denmark, Poland, and Portugal as well. As a source of inspiration, “Paranoid” has since become a heavy metal standard, covered by several rock bands that literally look to Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath as heady metal gods.
Top 10 Ozzy Osbourne Black Sabbath Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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