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Black Sabbath were an English heavy metal band formed in Birmingham in 1968 by guitarist Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. They are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes following Osbourne's departure in 1979, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.
After previous iterations of the group called the Polka Tulk Blues Band and Earth, the band settled on the name Black Sabbath in 1969. They distinguished themselves through occult themes with horror-inspired lyrics and tuned-down guitars. Signing to Philips Records in November 1969, they released their first single, "Evil Woman" in January 1970. Their debut album, Black Sabbath, was released the following month. Though it received a negative critical response, the album was a commercial success, leading to a follow-up record, Paranoid, later in 1970. The band's popularity grew, and by 1973's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, critics were starting to respond favourably. Osbourne's regular use of drugs and alcohol led to his firing in 1979. He was replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Following two albums with Dio, Black Sabbath endured many personnel changes in the 1980s and 1990s that included vocalists Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen and Tony Martin, as well as several drummers and bassists. In 1991, Iommi and Butler rejoined Dio and drummer Vinny Appice to record Dehumanizer (1992). The original line-up reunited with Osbourne in 1997 and released a live album Reunion. Black Sabbath's final studio album and nineteenth overall, 13 (2013), features all of the original members except Ward. During their farewell tour, the band played their final concert in their home city of Birmingham on 4 February 2017.
Black Sabbath were ranked by MTV as the "Greatest Metal Band" of all time, and placed second in VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" list. Rolling Stone magazine ranked them number 85 on their "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". They have sold over 70 million records worldwide. Black Sabbath were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. They have also won two Grammy Awards for Best Metal Performance, and in 2019 the band were presented a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Black Sabbath were a heavy metal band, whose music has also been described as psychedelic rock, and acid rock. The band have also been cited as a key influence on genres including stoner rock, grunge, doom metal, and sludge metal. Early on Black Sabbath were influenced by Cream, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Led Zeppelin, and Jethro Tull.
Although Black Sabbath went through many line-ups and stylistic changes, their core sound focuses on ominous lyrics and doomy music, often making use of the musical tritone, also called the "devil's interval". While their Ozzy-era albums such as Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973) had slight compositional similarities to the progressive rock genre that was growing in popularity at the time, standing in stark contrast to popular music of the early 1970s Black Sabbath's dark sound was dismissed by rock critics of the era. Much like many of their early heavy metal contemporaries, the band received virtually no airplay on rock radio.
Beginning with their third album, Master of Reality (1971), Black Sabbath began to feature tuned-down guitars. In 1965, before forming Black Sabbath, guitarist Tony Iommi suffered an accident while working in a sheet metal factory, losing the tips of two fingers on his right hand. Iommi almost gave up music, but was urged by the factory manager to listen to Django Reinhardt, a jazz guitarist who lost the use of two fingers in a fire. Inspired by Reinhardt, Iommi created two thimbles made of plastic and leather to cap off his missing fingertips. The guitarist began using lighter strings, and detuning his guitar, to better grip the strings with his prosthesis. Early in the band's history Iommi experimented with different dropped tunings, including C♯ tuning, or 3 semitones down, before settling on E♭/D♯ tuning, or a half-step down from standard tuning.
Tony Iommi has been credited as the pioneer of lighter gauge guitar strings. The tips of his fingers were severed in a steel factory, and while using thimbles (artificial finger tips) he found that standard guitar strings were too difficult to bend and play. He found that there was only one size of strings available, so after years with Sabbath he had strings custom made. Read more on Last.fm
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