Ozzy Osbourne names the one musician who gave him “purpose”

After being fired from Black Sabbath in 1979 due to his increased reliance on drugs and alcohol, when vocalist Ozzy Osbourne set about going solo, he needed a backing band of elemental proportions. After leaving the Birmingham metal legends, Osbourne would kick off a successful solo career with his debut album, Blizzard of Ozz. Featuring classic tracks such as ‘Crazy Train’ and ‘Mr. Crowley’, the record would show the world that, despite the odds, Osbourne was here to stay.

The band that performed on Blizzard of Ozz comprised guitarist Randy Rhoads, bassist Bob Daisley, keyboardist Don Airey, and drummer Lee Kerslake. When speaking to The Guardian in 2011, Osbourne recalled putting the group together in the autumn of 1979 in Los Angeles. He explained that one of the bassists who auditioned, Dana Strum from Slaughter, would not stop talking Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads.

“He would go on and on about this guy like he was fucking Jesus,” Osbourne explained. “I was smoking dope and getting tanked and fucked up on powders, and I just wanted to go home, but he said I had to see this guy. So Randy came in, five foot fucking two and so skinny, I thought he was a fairy. When he played, my brain went, ‘Either this is the greatest gear ever, or this guy really is the best guitarist in the world.’”

As fans know, Blizzard of Ozz is one of the highlights of Osbourne’s career and of that era of heavy metal as a whole. However, things would end quickly for the former Black Sabbath frontman and his new guitarist. Whilst Osbourne’s second album, 1981’s Diary of a Madman, was also a success, the following year, Rhoads was tragically killed aged 25 in a plane crash in Florida.

On the evening of March 18th that year, Osbourne and Rhoads were making their way to play an all-star arena show in Orlando. “Randy had something special about him that night,” Osbourne continued. “I was drinking gin, and he was writing his own music, and at one point, he looked up and said he wanted out; he wanted to go to university. I said, ‘What the fuck do you want to do that for? We’re blazing a trail! Keep on like this, and you can buy a university!’ But he wanted a degree in classical music.”

The morning of the following day, March 19th, the pair’s driver, Andrew Aycock, pulled into a private airfield in Leesburg where his small Beechcraft aeroplane was kept. First, he took tour manager and keyboardist Don Airey for a spin in the skies. Then, he took up Rhoads and Rachel Youngblood, Sharon Osbourne’s best friend.

At the time, the rest of the entourage were sleeping on the bus, bar Airey, the only one to see the disaster unfold. At 10:30am, the plane clipped the tour bus and smashed into a nearby mansion. All three on board were killed, with Rhoads’ body burned beyond recognition. Sharon Osbourne, awoken by the crash, would later say: “They were all in bits, it was just body parts everywhere.”

Whilst the horrific disaster indelibly scarred everyone for life, Ozzy Osbourne was affected the most. In the years since, he has placed much significance on Randy Rhoads’ positive presence and asserted that he helped him save himself. In fact, when speaking to The Guardian, he maintained that the late axeman “gave me a purpose”.

“It took me a very long time to get over his death,” Osbourne told the publication. “I’m on a low dose of anti-depressants even now. Randy gave me a purpose, he gave me hope. I was fed up fighting people. I just had the greatest respect for him.”

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