Ozzy Osbourne’s Long, Hard Road to ‘Patient Number 9′
Ozzy Osbourne has recorded two solo albums in the past three years, including Patient Number 9, which is out now. But he’s faced a long series of health challenges every step of the way.
The chronic pain got so bad earlier this year that Osbourne admitted that he hoped he wouldn't wake up as he prepared for his most recent surgery.
Thankfully, the Black Sabbath legend persevered and had a much better outlook by the time he made a surprise return to the stage in early August, performing alongside longtime bandmate Tony Iommi.
“You have not seen the end of Ozzy Osbourne, I promise you,” he told The Guardian. “If I have to go up there and die on the first song, I’ll still be back the next day.”
Without question, it’s that steadfast positive attitude that has kept Osbourne moving forward through the dark times – including an ATV accident in 2003, which was reportedly almost fatal. Though his doctors were able to successfully address the myriad of injuries Osbourne suffered, there have been further challenges in recent years related to the mishap.
Osbourne began to cancel tour dates in 2018 on his farewell tour after a hand infection caused his thumb to swell “to the size of a fuckin’ lightbulb.” Although he didn’t feel sick and was cracking jokes with the doctors, the infection was quite serious. Osbourne underwent emergency surgery for three separate staph infections in his hand to prevent permanent damage or even death.
More cancellations followed in early 2019, attributed this time to a severe upper-respiratory infection. Osbourne would later develop pneumonia. “I'm completely devastated for having to postpone the European leg of my tour," he said in a news release at the time. "It just seems that since October everything I touch has turned to shit.
By April 2019, Osbourne had shelved all of his tour dates due to what was described as an injury “sustained while dealing with his recent bout of pneumonia.”
Sharon Osbourne eventually explained the decision to postpone the shows, revealing that a fall had dislodged metal rods inserted in her husband’s body after the 2003 ATV accident. The spill, which happened in the middle of the night, had re-injured his back, neck and shoulders, she added. His recovery would be slow moving, but Osbourne worked diligently through physical and occupational therapy. His health issues continued, however, as blood clots appeared in his legs. “It’s scary stuff,” Osbourne told Rolling Stone. “From 40 [years old] to 70 was OK and suddenly you get to 70 and everything caved in on me.”
Still, Osbourne continued to work on new music, recording nine song ideas in that same period. Ordinary Man took shape in a marathon four-day period with producer Andrew Watt at the helm. Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith formed the core of the writing team who collaborated with Osbourne and Watt.
McKagan noted that the sessions could have gone “sideways in a second,” as he told former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. Still, he felt that the limited time they had to work on the material ultimately contributed positively to the album that emerged.
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Ordinary Man arrived in February 2020 featuring additional collaborations with Elton John and Slash. Unfortunately, Osbourne’s health woes continued. He confirmed a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease while speaking with Good Morning America.
He tempered that revelation a month later, however, by revealing that he had first received the news in 2003. “I’m not dying from Parkinson’s. I’ve been working with it most of my life,” Osbourne told the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve cheated death so many times. If tomorrow you read ‘Ozzy Osbourne never woke up this morning,’ you wouldn’t go, ‘Oh, my God!’ You’d go, ‘Well, it finally caught up with him.’”
Even with the brave outlook, Osbourne shared his frustration during an interview with SiriusXM’s Jenny McCarthy. Osbourne was “convinced” he was dying and that his family had been hiding it from him. Sharon, he added, reassured him that was not the case.
He then canceled his 2020 touring schedule since there were “six [to] eight weeks” of medical treatments on the horizon. Further cancellations followed due to coronavirus concerns and Parkinson’s-related related matters. He eventually tested positive for the COVID-19 virus in early 2022.
Less than a year after the release of Ordinary Man, news emerged that Osbourne was working on another solo album. Watt reported in December 2020 that they were “about halfway through” the recording process for the follow-up.
Watt added that the songs had been split between Smith and Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins and that he was jazzed by what had been coming out. Hawkins’ contributions, “harken back to Ozzy's ‘80s era, in a great way,” Watt told Guitar World, adding, “I think it's so cool for a rock fan to be able to listen to half an album with Chad Smith on drums, and then you flip it over and you get to hear Taylor Hawkins.”
These ongoing musical projects were important in keeping Osbourne’s spirits high, he admitted in 2021: “It’s kept me alive, you know. These past two years I’ve been in a terrible fucking state between the accident and then the pandemic. It’s kept me sane. I’ve needed the music.”
Watch Ozzy Osbourne's 'Patient Number 9' Video
Osbourne revealed more collaborations in October 2021, telling SiriusXM that longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde was in the mix, along with Eric Clapton and Tony Iommi. Jeff Beck also performed on the LP that became Patient Number 9, although they were unable to get his former Yardbirds bandmate Jimmy Page to participate. Osbourne then announced the new record’s official completion in April 2022, noting in a social media post that he had delivered the finished work to his label, Epic Records.
Following a bout with COVID-19, he finally underwent surgery in June to address lingering issues with his neck and spine. It was a serious operation, with Sharon saying that the outcome would really “determine the rest of his life.”
Thankfully, Osbourne came through the surgery well and Sharon updated fans on his successful progress via Twitter. "Our family would like to express so much gratitude for the overwhelming amount of love and support leading up to Ozzy’s surgery! Ozzy is doing well and on the road to recovery! Your love means the world to him."
He confirmed Patient Number 9 in late June, revealing the album’s title track (which features Beck) and a September release date. “It's no secret that the last four years have been very difficult for me,” Osbourne admitted during a Q&A with fans, “but making this album took my mind off of my problems."
Osbourne also praised the contributions of Iommi during the same discussion. “It was really great working with Tony. He's the riff master. No one can touch him in that respect. I only wish we had these songs for Black Sabbath's 13 album."
In his view, there’s one more milestone that would make the past several years of struggle worthwhile: A trip to the top of the charts for Patient Number 9. "I still want to have a No. 1 record in England," Osbourne said in the summer of 2022, "and this album is worthy of being the one.”
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