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Remembering Randy Rhoads on His 56th Birthday

Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads
Paul Natkin, Getty Images

Guitarist Randy Rhoads would be 56-years-old today (Dec. 6), had a tragic airplane accident not cut short the life of a man Ozzy Osbourne called a “saint” and an “angel.’ Despite only giving fans less than ten years worth of music with Quiet Riot and then with Osbourne, Rhoads’ impact will never slip quietly out of fan’s memories.

As they’ve done every year, fans will gather at Rhoads’ grave in San Bernardino, Calif. today. “We will never forget him,” Osbourne said of his friend. “His musical legacy lives on in the minds and music of his many fans.” Osbourne spoke about his guitarist to Guitar Player five months after the March, 1982 accident that killed Rhoads, shut down their tour and changed Ozzy’s life forever.

“I don’t think people have ever fully realized what a talent that guy was – not only in rock and roll, but in every other field, you know. He was not only a great rock and roll player, but in the classics he was phenomenal, and in every other field he was phenomenal.”

Rhoads was raised by a single mother who got him involved in music early. By the time he was a teenager he was forming bands with his brother and their friends. It was clear that his classical guitar training set him apart from other young guitar heroes of his day. He formed Quiet Riot in 1972 and left in 1979 to join Osbourne for his new solo venture. Even more than his talent, it was Rhoads’ smile and innocence that endeared the guitarist to the former Black Sabbath frontman.

Together the two made sure they didn’t follow traditional heavy metal chord structures and key signatures. “I don’t know about keys because I don’t read music and I don’t really understand it – I just get up there and scream around and jump around, you know?” Osbourne said in 1982. “So we made a rule that every number that we recorded on an album was never played in the same key. It’s a different key in every number. We had a great rapport together. We loved each other very dearly. I swear to God, the tragedy of my life is the day he died.”

Fans of Osbourne’s came to see the new lead guitarist as much as the controversial lead singer. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello tells Rolling Stone he practiced eight hours a day because of Rhoads. Osbourne called him the most dedicated musician he’d ever met, as Rhoads would spend his days and nights off practicing instead of joining the band in their brand of debauchery.

Rhoads was ranked No. 36 on Rolling Stone’s recent list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. At the time of his death he was digging deeper into jazz and classical music, using both to innovate the heavy-metal guitar sound. Unlike many other dead guitar legends, there is little doubt that time would have only magnified how influential Rhoads was. The world was just learning of his talent when he was killed in March of 1982.

Next: Top 10 Ozzy Osbourne Songs

Ozzy Osbourne Remembers Working with Randy Rhoads

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