What You Didn't Know About Ozzy Osbourne

The following article includes mentions of drug and alcohol addiction and domestic violence.

John Michael Osbourne was born in 1948 in Birmingham, England. He refused to be defined by his working-class background when, as a teenager, the musician better known as Ozzy Osbourne joined up with some local lads and formed a band. That band was Black Sabbath, almost singlehandedly defining the sound that came to be known as heavy metal thanks to such tracks as "Paranoid," "Iron Man," and "War Pigs." 

Throughout the 1970s, Osbourne became legendary for rock-star excess — so much so that his bandmates ultimately fired him. As his intake of drugs and booze escalated, he nonetheless managed to launch a solo career in the 1980s that eclipsed his success in Black Sabbath, establishing himself as the "Prince of Darkness" with a stream of hits, including "Crazy Train," "Flying High Again," "Mama, I'm Coming Home," and many more. Along the way, Osbourne also became a reality TV pioneer as he and his family opened up their lives for "The Osbournes," an era-defining series that only made the now-sober rocker more famous than he already was. 

Instantly recognizable from a career spanning from the 1960s, this bona fide rock icon has lived large — sometimes, a little too large — for decades. Find out more about this multifaceted entertainer by reading further to discover what you didn't know about Ozzy Osbourne.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Ozzy Osbourne performed Gilbert and Sullivan in high school

Growing up in the British city of Birmingham, Ozzy Osbourne recalled his lifelong inferiority complex in an interview with GQ. Speaking with David Furnish (a.k.a. the spouse of Sir Elton John), he revealed that it wasn't until well after his time in school that Osbourne discovered he was dyslexic. "I always feel like I am on the dark side of the tracks. I feel I'm no good. I can't read. I can't concentrate and I can remember f**k all," he explained. "I have no faith in my ability to judge things. Everything that I think is good is bad, and everything that I think is bad is good." 

Coming from working-class stock, money was tight when he was a child, and personal hygiene wasn't exactly stressed. This led to a particularly humiliating incident, he recalled, when the headmaster at his school sent him home because he was "not clean enough," admitting he "was so embarrassed." 

While his performance in school bordered on abysmal, there was one area in which he managed to shine: music. As Osbourne told Furnish, he participated in his school's musical performances. "I was in two musical opera things. Gilbert and Sullivan," he revealed. "'The Mikado' and 'HMS [Pinafore].'"

He would have been a criminal had he not been 'useless' at it

In his younger years, Ozzy Osbourne dabbled in petty crime. "I tried a bit of burglary but I was no good at that. F**king useless," he revealed in an interview with The Big Issue. After just a few weeks as a burglar, the future music star was arrested. "My dad said to me, that was very stupid. And I did feel very stupid," he admitted.

Elaborating for Louder Sound, Osbourne confessed that he was simply trying to "be accepted into the local gang," but instead was sent to jail; his father refused to pay the fine that would have seen him released. "When I came out he said to me, 'I could've paid the fine but I wanted to teach you a lesson.' It f**king worked because I didn't want to go back there again," Osbourne said.

"When you're in prison it stays in your f**king memory. A f**king hour in one of them places is long enough," the Black Sabbath musician continued. Even though he was only behind bars for "just about a month," it was long enough to make Osbourne realize that a life of crime was not in the cards.

Ozzy Osbourne worked as a plumber's apprentice and a car horn tuner

In addition to wannabe criminal, Ozzy Osbourne's other job prospects included plumber's apprentice. As he wrote in his 2010 autobiography, "I Am Ozzy," the job had one big disadvantage. "I didn't realize that plumbers work their arses off in the middle of winter, when all the pipes burst," Osbourne wrote, finding himself "bending over manholes while my arse-crack frosted over."

Osbourne also tried his hand at another vocation, he wrote, as "a trained car horn tuner." According to Osbourne, "My job was to pick up the car horns as they came along on a conveyor belt" and adjust each with a screwdriver until it honked in the proper pitch, tapping a clicker each time he'd completed one. 

Admitting the job made him feel "ready to murder someone," he once decided to hit the clicker twice for each horn he'd tuned, then multiple times. He was eventually called into the supervisor's office, and asked how he'd managed to tune 500 car horns in 20 minutes. He blamed a faulty clicker, while his bosses told him "they weren't f**king born yesterday and that the only thing wrong with the clicker was the f**king idiot operating it." Ouch.

Yes, he really did bite the heads off some live doves

Back in 1981, Ozzy Osbourne had left Black Sabbath and embarked on a solo career when he made a snap decision in the midst of a business meeting that has continued to loom large in his lore. In the Black Sabbath biography, "Symptom of the Universe," as excerpted in Ultimate Classic Rock, author Mick Wall wrote that the rocker's manager and later wife, Sharon Arden, had arranged for Osbourne to make a "short speech" at his record label's annual sales convention. 

The "piece de resistance," Wall wrote, was for Osbourne to conclude his speech by releasing a trio of white doves into the air. Osbourne, however, was drunk and bored. "I just remember this PR woman going on and on at me. In the end, I said, 'Do you like animals?' Then I pulled out one of these doves and bit its f**king head off. Just to shut her up. Then I did it again with the next dove, spitting the head out on the table, and [the woman] fell on the floor screaming. That's when they threw me out," Osbourne told Wall. "They said I'd never work for CBS again."

But the rocker didn't actually intend to bite the head off a live bat

Even more infamous than the dove-beheading incident was when, in 1982, Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off of a live bat during a concert in Des Moines, Idaho. However, that hadn't been his intention. As Osbourne said in the A&E documentary, "The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne" (via the Express), biting the bat "was kinda an accident, which I did milk somewhat."

According to Osbourne, somebody in the audience threw what he assumed was a rubber bat onstage. "I just picked it up and I put it in my mouth. I just f**king bit into it, y'know, being the f**king clown that I am," he said. Immediately upon chomping, he realized the bat was not made of rubber, thinking to himself, "Oh, no, it's real! It's a real live bat!"

As a result of his onstage gimmick, after the show Osbourne was forced to have painful rabies shots. "All I did was get out there and make a mistake of biting the head off a bat," he declared. "And I tell you what guys, it ain't fun when you get them rabies shots!"

A genetic mutation is probably the reason Ozzy Osbourne is still alive

One of the most monumental scientific achievements of the past century has been the Human Genome Project, a 13-year project striving to "identify all the approximately 20,500 genes in human DNA," and "determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA."

According to Discover, one of the first subjects sought by the project was Ozzy Osbourne. As Osbourne wrote in a column for the Sunday Times (via Scientific American), "Given the swimming pools of booze I've guzzled over the years — not to mention all of the cocaine, morphine, sleeping pills, cough syrup, LSD, Rohypnol... you name it — there's really no plausible medical reason why I should still be alive. Maybe my DNA could say why."

Researcher Nathanial Pearson sequenced Osbourne's genes, reported ABC News, and revealed that the singer had numerous gene variants "we've never seen before." In addition to a predisposition to addiction, Osbourne also boasts some genetic mutations in terms of how his body processes alcohol and drugs. "He's going to outlive us all," said the rocker's wife, Sharon Osbourne. "That fascinated me — how his body can endure so much."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He hated doing The Osbournes

When "The Osbournes" debuted on MTV in 2002, the reality show became an instant hit, depicting the far-from-normal home life of Ozzy Osbourne, wife/manager Sharon Osbourne, and teenage kids Kelly and Jack. While he was already an icon to head-banging metal-heads, the show brought Ozzy to a level of mainstream fame he hadn't yet experienced, bolstering both his celebrity and his bank account.

Looking back at "The Osbournes" in an interview with Metal Hammer, the former Black Sabbath frontman admitted the experience of doing the show was shattering. "All I can say to you is this: number one, if someone offers you a s**tload of dough to be on television, you'd have to be a mug to turn it down," he said. "I thought it was gonna be a piece of cake, but you have a camera crew living in your house for three years and see how you feel at the end of it. You feel like a f**king laboratory rat."

Being filmed constantly led Ozzy Osbourne to begin "falling apart emotionally ... because you can't f**king relax. It doesn't matter where you go for a piss, you're paranoid there's a camera in there." Ultimately, though, he said he's "not ashamed of it and it's a big hit."

Ozzy Osbourne enlisted Robin Williams to become Patch Adams when wife Sharon had cancer

One of the darkest times in Ozzy Osbourne's life was wife Sharon Osbourne's 2002 colon cancer diagnosis. As the family related in the first edition of "The Osbournes Podcast" (via Page Six), Sharon had become despondent, refusing to resume chemo. Ozzy, who had recently seen Robin Williams in "Patch Adams," reached out to the actor to see if he would come by and help lift her spirits.

Sharon recalled being "half asleep and a little woozy" from her medication when Williams appeared in her bedroom, she told the National Enquirer. "I couldn't think of what to say, so I said, 'Does Ozzy know you're here?' Then, Robin got in bed with me and said, 'Shhh! No, he doesn't and don't tell him!' Well, that just cracked me up. I was in bed with Robin Williams. I started laughing hysterically."  

As the couple's daughter, Kelly Osbourne, said on the family podcast, Williams' visit took them "from crying, not knowing what to do, to peeing ourselves laughing because we could hear Mom upstairs in her room laughing with Robin. The next day it changed everything and Mom went back to chemo."

In between Black Sabbath and his solo career, he ran a pub

There was a brief period in between his tenure with Black Sabbath and the launch of his successful solo career that Ozzy Osbourne considered ditching the music business entirely. "When I got fired from Sabbath I thought: 'This is it. What can I do now? I'll buy a bar.' That lasted about a month," Osbourne said in an interview with Classic Rock. He purchased the place for his then-wife, Thelma Osbourne, who "asked [him] very kindly if [he] wouldn't mind staying at home and letting someone else run the pub." Ozzy explained, "People weren't coming in because I was mad, and I was drinking the profits every day. That was in Newport, Shropshire ... I'm told that they still call that place Ozzy's. I don't know whether that's true or not."

Apparently it was. As the Birmingham Mail reported, Ozzy Osbourne sold the place after two years, although it retained the original name: Ozzy's Wine Bar. Sadly, the pub shut down in 2012 due to a slump in business. "It's quite sad," Ozzy's licensee, Paul Quinn, told the Shropshire Star. "We've always had a good bunch of regulars here but it's just the way the industry is going at the moment."

One of his Black Sabbath bandmates was also his childhood bully

When Ozzy Osbourne first joined up with the musicians who would eventually make music history as Black Sabbath, there were some interpersonal dynamics that needed to be overcome. As Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler explained in an interview with Metal Hammer, Osbourne and guitarist Tony Iommi had some history. 

"Ozzy had been to school with Tony, and they hated each other," Butler said, revealing that "Tony had bullied him at school." However, Osbourne himself disputed that characterization. "People say he used to beat me up," Osbourne clarified. "He never did."

Still, it was clear there was bad blood between the two when Iommi showed up at Osbourne's door, answering an ad seeking a guitarist, and immediately recognized the singer, explaining, "And when he came to the door, I said to [Black Sabbath drummer] Bill [Ward], 'Oh no, forget it, I know this guy.'" Osbourne, however, managed to talk Iommi into sticking around. "I have no idea what I said to Tony outside my house that night to make him change [his] mind and give me a chance," said Osbourne. "I think the fact I had a PA system probably helped."

Ozzy Osbourne once tackled a jewel thief in the nude

Back in 2004, Ozzy Osbourne and his family were splitting their time between their home in Los Angeles and a posh mansion in Buckinghamshire, England. It was in their British pad that the nude singer woke up to relieve himself and encountered a burglar in a balaclava mid-robbery while his family slept. 

"At the time when I had a go at the assailant, I acted purely on impulse," Osbourne told The Guardian of tackling the thief and holding him in a headlock; the perp was eventually able to wriggle free of his butt-naked captor and escaped by leaping from a window. "In hindsight it could've been a lot worse," Osbourne admitted. "I could have been like George Harrison [who was stabbed by a thief in his own home]. I could have been badly injured or shot or anything."

Osbourne admitted he was "happy in one respect," saying, "Because it could have got really ugly and I'm just happy no one got injured ... My wife and myself didn't get injured or any of the assailants. I wouldn't want anyone to get injured." However, when asked if he would respond similarly if he encountered another intruder, Osbourne quipped, "Is the Pope a Catholic?"

He was arrested for urinating on the Alamo

February 19, 1982, was a particularly inauspicious date in the life of Ozzy Osbourne. That, reminded Loudwire, was the day that the singer, three sheets to the wind and clad in one of wife Sharon Osbourne's dresses (she'd hidden his clothing to prevent him from leaving their hotel room and causing drunken chaos), needed to relieve himself while in San Antonio, Texas, and took aim at the nearest statue he encountered.

Unfortunately, that particular statue was the Cenotaph, situated across from the Alamo, which honors those who lost their lives at the 1836 battle that took place at the Alamo. Not only was Ozzy arrested and thrown into jail, but he was also banned from performing in San Antonio until 1992, when he returned with an apology and a $10,000 donation to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. 

Years later, Ozzy Osbourne was interviewed by Rolling Stone about literally revisiting the scene of the crime for his History Channel series, "Ozzy & Jack's World Detour." During his return trip, the rocker was informed he had technically been arrested for public intoxication, not urination. When asked if he felt any better because of that distinction, he responded, "I felt no different. I'd still gotten arrested."

He doesn't remember trying to murder wife Sharon — but she does

In the 2020 documentary, "Biography: The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne" (via Us Weekly), Ozzy Osbourne looked back at arguably the most disturbing incident in his life: the time he literally tried to murder his wife, Sharon Osbourne. "[It was] not exactly one of my greatest achievements," he admitted.

From his drug-addled perspective, the former Black Sabbath frontman could only remember waking up feeling "the calmest [he] had ever felt in [his] life," before soon discovering that he was in a jail cell, charged with attempted murder. As Sharon recalled, her husband was in such an altered state that she didn't recognize him. "I had no idea who was sat across from me on the sofa but it wasn't my husband ... he just said, 'We've come to a decision that you've got to die.' He was calm — very calm — then suddenly he lunged across at me and just dived on me and started to choke me," she said. 

A judge sentenced the rocker to six months' medical detention, while Sharon delivered an ultimatum. "If you do this again, either I am going to kill you or you are going to kill me," she told him. "And do you want that for the kids?"

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Ozzy Osbourne's net worth is mind blowing

Being a rock star has proven to be far more lucrative for Ozzy Osbourne than his earlier vocations in car-horn tuning and apprentice plumbing. According to Celebrity Net Worth, as of 2021, he was worth a staggering $220 million. In addition, wife Sharon Osbourne is individually worth the same amount, with their joint wealth estimated at $440 million. 

His income comes from a variety of sources, including songwriting royalties, album sales, touring, books, and TV series, but Ozzy wasn't always filthy rich. In a 2019 interview, he recalled being flat broke after being fired from Black Sabbath and working with Sharon, his manager and future wife, to establish himself as a solo artist. "When we started off, I can remember, we were both broke, no credit cards, nothing," Ozzy said. "We'd have all the cash from the gig in a briefcase and we'd have to stay in these really cheap hotels, like motorway hotels. The briefcase with cash in it was handcuffed to my wrist 'cause if we got ripped off, we were done. But it was fun, because we had nothing to lose, and everything to gain! We'd beg, borrow, and steal."