Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)

Tony IommI, the guitarist and songwriter with Pioneering heavy Metal band Black Sabbath  was born 19 February 1948 Birmingham, His mother’s family were vineyard owners in Italy. The family were Catholic but rarely attended mass. The family home in the Park Lane area of Aston also housed a shop which was a popular meeting place in the neighbourhood. The family living room doubled as the shop’s stockroom. His mother ran the shop while his father was a carpenter by trade. Born and raised in Handsworth, Birmingham, Iommi attended Birchfield Road School, where future bandmate Ozzy Osbourne was also a student one year behind him. At age 8 or 9, Iommi fell and badly cut his upper lip as another boy chased him. As a result, he gained the nickname “Scarface” which caused him to become self-conscious of the scar, and he eventually grew his trademark mustache as a means of covering it.

At about age ten, Iommi began working out and learned judo, karate, and later boxing as a means of protecting himself from the local gangs which congregated in his neighbourhood. He became so good at boxing that he envisioned a future as a bouncer in a nightclub, thus avoiding a career in a boring factory job. Iommi initially wanted to play the drums, but due to the excessive noise he chose the guitar instead as a teenager, after being inspired by the likes of Hank Marvin and The Shadows. He has always played guitar left-handed.

After completing school, Iommi worked briefly as a plumber and later in a factory manufacturing rings. At the age of 17, Iommi lost the tips of the middle and ring finger of his right hand in an industrial accident on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory. After the injury Iommi considered abandoning the guitar entirely. However, his factory foreman played him a recording of famous jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, Inspired by Reinhardt’s two-fingered guitar playing, Iommi decided to try playing guitar again, though the injury made it quite painful to do so. Although it was an option, iommi never seriously considered switching hands and learning to play right-handed and continued playing left-handed. To do so, he fitted modified homemade thimbles to his injured fingers to extend and protect them, however this created technical problems. so he used banjo strings instead, until around 1970–71 when Picato Strings began making light-gauge guitar strings. He also used the injured fingers predominantly for fretting chords rather than single-note solos. He also began tuning his guitar to lower pitches, sometimes as far as three semitones below standard guitar tuning (e.g., on “Children of the Grave”, “Lord of this World”, and “Into the Void”, all on the album Master of Reality). This creates a bigger heavier sound and slackens the strings tightness.

Iommi had played in several blues/rock bands, the earliest of which was the Rockin’ Chevrolets from 1964 to 1965. The band had regular bookings and when they were offered work in Germany, Iommi decided to leave his factory job to take up the opportunity. From 1966 to 1967 Iommi played in a band named The Rest. It was in The Rest that Iommi first met future-Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward, who performed drums and vocals in the band. During 1968 Iommi was guitarist in Mythology, with Ward joining a month later in mid-February. In May 1968 police raided the group’s practice flat and found cannabis resin. Mythology subsequently split up after a gig in Silloth in 1968. Vocalist Ozzy Osbourne joined with Iommi and Ward after the duo responded to an advert in a local music shop proclaiming “Ozzy Zig Needs Gig – has own PA”. Osbourne mentioned his former Rare Breed bandmate Geezer Butler, who was subsequently hired along with slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips and saxophonist Alan “Aker” Clarke.

They named themselves the Polka Tulk Blues Band. Phillips and Clarke were dismissed from the band, which soon after shortened its name to Polka Tulk. Iommi, Butler, Ward and Osbourne renamed the band Earth. Iommi briefly departed to join Jethro Tull. However, after only one performance (an appearance on “The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus” in which the band mimed “A Song for Jeffrey”, which Ian Anderson sang live), Iommi was back with Earth once more. In 1969 Earth renamed themselves Black Sabbath. His factory accident inadvertently affected the Black Sabbath sound; by 1970 Iommi had detuned his guitar from E to E♭ (a minor second down),and from Master of Reality album, had detuned it further to D♭ (a minor third down), to ease the tension on his fingers. Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler did the same to match Iommi. Sabbath was among the first bands to detune, and the technique became a mainstay of heavy metal music. Iommi combined blues-like guitar solos and dark, minor-key riffing with a revolutionary high-gain, heavily distorted tone with his use of a modified treble-boosting effect-pedal.

By the late 1970s, Black Sabbath were suffering from substance abuse, managerial problems, and touring exhaustion. In addition, the band’s slow, blues-driven riffs were outmoded against the rising generation of metal bands such as Judas Priest and Motörhead. After the albums Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! were released Iommi and Butler decided that Sabbath needed a fresh start, so in the summer of 1979, they fired Osbourne and replaced him with Ronnie James Dio, the former vocalist for Rainbow. With Dio, Black Sabbath produced Heaven and Hell, which attempted to update Black Sabbath’s sound for the 1980s and featured soaring vocals Bill Ward dropped out due to alcohol problems and displeasure with the direction that Dio was taking the band. He was replaced by Vinny Appice. With Iommi and Geezer Butler the only original members, this line-up produced Mob Rules. Dio quit the following year to begin a solo career, so Sabbath went through a revolving door line-up for the next decade with a succession of frontmen – Ian Gillan (formerly of Deep Purple), Glenn Hughes, Tony Martin and Ray Gillen. After Ian Gillan departed the band in 1984, Geezer Butler left as well. With Sabbath in effective hiatus, Iommi recorded his first solo album, entitled Seventh Star. The album featured Glenn Hughes (also formerly of Deep Purple) on vocals, but due to label pressures, it was billed as a release by “Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi.”

In 1992, Iommi appeared at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, playing four songs with the remaining members of Queen and other guest artists. Geezer Butler also returned to Sabbath that year. In 1993 Iommi teamed up with fellow Black Country band Diamond Head and co-wrote the song “Starcrossed (Lovers in the Night)” for their 1993 Death and Progress album. At Ozzy’s “farewell” concert at Costa Mesa in 1992, Dio refused to perform and abruptly left the band. As a result, Rob Halford was recruited to perform as the vocalist for two gigs (Halford also sang at one of the dates on the 2004 Ozzfest tour, when Ozzy couldn’t perform due to bronchitis). Following Osbourne’s solo set, the show concluded with Ozzy bringing out the other members of the original Black Sabbath line-up for a 4-song reunion. Black Sabbath recorded two further albums with Tony Martin before the original line-up reunited as a touring band in 1997. While Bill Ward played at the two initial reunion shows at Birmingham NEC in December 1997, he was not present for the following two reunion tours, his second absence due to a heart attack. Ward was replaced by Mike Bordin and then Vinny Appice.

On 11 November 2011, the original band members announced that they were reuniting and recording a new album, although Bill Ward did not participate and Vinny Appice took his place at drums for the sessions. The new album, 13, was released in June 2013. Sadly though Guitarist Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma on 9 January 2012, which forced the band to cancel all but two shows (Download Festival, and Lollapalooza Festival) of a previously booked European tour. an intimate show was played in their hometown Birmingham. It was the first concert since the reunion and the only indoors concerts that

On 21 May 2012, at the O2 Academy in Birmingham, Black Sabbath played their first concert since 2005, with Tommy Clufetos playing the drums. In June, they performed at Download Festival, followed by the last concert of the short tour at Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago. Later that month, the band started recording an album. In 2013, the band announced that the album would be released in June under the title 13. Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine was chosen as the drummer, and Rick Rubin was chosen as the producer.. The standard version of the album features eight new tracks, and the deluxe version features three bonus tracks. [ The band’s first single from 13, “God Is Dead?”, was released in 2013. Black Sabbath also commenced their first Australia/New Zealand tour in 40 years, followed by a major North American Tour The second single of the album, “End of the Beginning”, debuted in a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode, where all three members appeared. In 2013, 13 topped both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200. “God Is Dead?” earned Black Sabbath their first Grammy Award in 14 years for Best Metal Performance in 2014.

In July 2013, Black Sabbath embarked on a North American Tour (for the first time since July 2001), followed by a Latin American tour in October 2013. In November 2013, the band started their European tour which lasted until December 2013. In March and April 2014, they made 12 stops in North America (mostly in Canada) as the second leg of their North American Tour before embarking in June 2014 on the second leg of their European tour, which ended with a concert at London’s Hyde Park. Black Sabbath began work on their twentieth studio album in early 2015 with producer Rick Rubin, followed by a final tour in 2016. On 3 September 2015, it was announced that Black Sabbath would embark on their final tour, titled The End, from January 2016 to February 2017. The final shows of The End tour took place at the Genting Arena in Birmingham, England on 2 and 4 February 2017.

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