Ozzy Osbourne has always been about reinventing himself. No matter what hurdles life threw at him, he always found a way to stack everything back up and find success in a new realm. But there’s one incident that he has never gotten over — even to this day.
The British musician had made a name for himself as the vocalist for the metal band Black Sabbath in the 1970s. With fast-paced success also came drug and alcohol abuse — eventually leading to Osbourne being kicked out of the group in 1979.
“He got fired from one of the biggest rock bands in the world,” his wife Sharon Osbourne says in the two-hour special, Biography: The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne, airing September 7 at 9/8c on A&E. “He was an addict, so they wrote him off.”
But in true Osbourne style, that downfall started him on the path to a solo career, which was looking bright, until a tragic plane crash.
Osbourne says guitarist Randy Rhoads 'pulled the best out of me'
When Osbourne first found himself without a band, he started on a downward spiral. His then-manager turned future wife Sharon had said she’d manage him as a solo act. While that provided some hope, he still needed a spark.
Enter guitarist Randy Rhoads. “I knew instinctively that he was something extra special,” Osbourne says in the Biography special of meeting Rhoads. “He was like a gift from God — we worked so well together. Randy and I were like a team.”
The two meshed perfectly, but more importantly, Osbourne discovered his purpose again. “As soon as he found Randy, it was like night and day,” Sharon says. “He was alive again. Randy was a breath of fresh air, funny, ambitious, just a great guy.”
With Sharon as his manager and her dad financing his solo start, Osbourne was back to what he did best, creating music, this time with a partner he saw eye-to-eye with. “One thing that he gave to me was hope, he gave me a reason for carrying on,” he says. “He had patience with me, which was great. He was great to work with. He pulled the best out of me. We had a lot of fun.”
The plane crash Killed Rhoads — and nearly Killed the Osbournes
Soon they were taking the fun on the road. “I remember we did a gig in Knoxville, Tennessee, and we were driving from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Orlando, Florida, to do a gig with Foreigner,” the now 71-year-old musician recalls.
They were staying at a mansion on March 19, 1982, before their concert in Leesburg when tragedy struck around noon.
“Ozzy and I were sleeping in the back of the bus, and we got woken up by this huge, huge blast,” Sharon remembers.
Even now, almost four decades later, Osbourne speaks about the incident with devastation, remembering seeing a gigantic blaze. “I couldn’t understand what’s going on — it’s like I’ve been in a nightmare,” he says.
Sharon recalls bassist Rudy Sarzo shouting, “Get off the bus!” while Sarzo adds, “We all get out of the bus and we had no idea what was going on.”
When Sharon got out of the bus, she saw the tour manager on his knees crying. She turned and saw an airplane sticking up through a house.
In the plane were 25-year-old Rhoads, 36-year-old pilot Andrew Aycock and 58-year-old hairdresser Rachel Youngblood.
“They had been on a plane and the plane had crashed,” Sarzo says. “One or two inches lower, it would have crashed into the bus, and we would have blown up right there.”
While the exact details of how the plane crashed are unclear, their fate was certain. “I don't know what the hell happened that killed them, but everyone died on the plane,” Osbourne says.
Osbourne still feels guilty about the crash
The effect of the cast on Osbourne’s life was tremendous, especially losing such a cherished friend and musical partner. “I lost a dear friend in my life — I miss him terribly,” Osbourne admits. “I just bathed my wounds with alcohol and drugs.”
Sarzo says that the stakes for Sharon’s job also became greater since she didn’t just have to keep the singer from drugs and alcohol, but “doing damage to himself” as well.
In every sense of the word, Rhoads had been “everything” to Osbourne, his wife says. “Ozzy still to this day feels guilty. ‘If only I was awake, I would never have let him get on that plane.’ And, you know, it's something that Ozzy lives with,” she reveals.
After that, every show became a tribute to the guitarist whose life was cut so short — and even though Osbourne eventually continued on to decades of success and even television stardom, the crash still weighs on him.
“The day that Randy Rhoads died was the day a part of me died,” he says.