|Black Sabbath has been so influential in the development of heavy metal that they are a defining force of that style. The group took the blues-rock sound of the late 1960's act to its logical conclusion, slowing the tempo, accentuating the bass, and emphasizing screaming guitar solos and howled vocals full of mental anguish. In doing so they helped give birth to a musical style that continued to attract millions of fans decades later.
Black Sabbath was formed by four teenagers from Aston, near Birmingham, England: Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward. In early 1969, they decided to take their name, Earth, and rename it Black Sabbath, which was taken by a song written by Geezer Butler and a novel by occult writer Dennis Wheatley.
On Friday, February 13, 1970, Black Sabbath released it's self-titled debut album, which broke into the U.K. Top Ten. Though it was a less immediate success in the U.S., it broke in the American charts by August, reaching the top 40, remaining on the charts for over a year, and selling a million copies. They quickly released a second album, Paranoid, in September 1970. The album reached number 1 in the U.K. and the top 10 in the U.S., selling over 4 million copies, by far the band's best effort.
Sabbath's next three albums, Master of Reality, Volume 4, and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, all reached the top ten in both the U.S. and the U.K.. In July 1975, Sabbath's 6th album, Sabotage, reached the top 20, but didn't match previous sales. Technical Ecstasy, released October 1976, was another good, but not great seller, and Ozzy's frustration caused him to quit the band. He returned in January 1978. Their 8th album, Never Say Die, was released in September 1978, but again only sold a modest amount of copies.
Ozzy Osbourne left for a solo career in 1979 and was replaced by Ronnie James Dio. The new Sabbath lineup released Heaven And Hell in April 1980. The result was a commerical resurgence. In the U.S. and U.K. it was a top ten hit. Meanwhile, drummer Bill Ward left due to ill health and was replaced by Vinny Appice. That new lineup then recorded Mob Rules in November 1981, which was another huge success. The group reorganized by persuading drummer Bill Ward to return, and then making a surprising move to recruit former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan. This lineup created Born Again in September 1983. After that album, Gillan left to reunite with Deep Purple. Bill Ward left Black Sabbath again due to reoccurring health issues. Geezer Butler left after another failed attempt to recruit a new singer and drummer. Tony Iommi was the sole surviving member credited with keeping Black Sabbath's name alive by producing albums featuring other musicians.
In 1992, Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice rejoined Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, recreating the lineup for Mob Rules and recording Dehumanizer. This album had many mixed reviews and has more or less become an odd side note in the band's history. Ronnie James Dio quit Sabbath again when he refused to open up for the last four dates of Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tears tour. Ozzy and the rest of Sabbath played together for the first time since 1978, setting the stage for a long-awaited reunion, which took almost six years to become reality.
In 1998, Black Sabbath released Reunion, which was a live performance made my the original 4 members of Black Sabbath at a concert in Birmingham, England. It was the first album released by the four original members since 1978, and the first official live album ever produced in Sabbath's 30 year career (1980's Live At Last was released w/o permission).
Surprisingly, in 2002, the original 4 members of Black Sabbath have discussed the intention to record a studio album of all new material, the lineup's first since 1978. At this time it is not known whether or not this will happen, but regardless, Black Sabbath's legacy will always stand.