Ozzy Osbourne's persona as metal's Prince of Darkness tends to overshadow the fact that he's one of the most enduring rock musicians of his generation.
Osbourne may have been the last person anyone expected to mount a successful solo career after his dismissal from Black Sabbath, but he confounded fans and critics by releasing back-to-back genre re-defining classics with his first two solo albums, on which guitarist Randy Rhoads helped him re-write the book on what was possible in heavy rock. The rest of Ozzy's solo career might not have reached those lofty heights, but he has gone on to release a long string of well-respected and commercially successful albums, in the process becoming arguably the most significant heavy rocker in the history of the genre.
Behind Osbourne's bat-and-dove-biting, drug-crazed, wife-choking public image is a genuinely talented lyricist and melody writer, as you'll see in our list of the Top 10 Ozzy Osbourne Songs.
'Mr. Crowley'From: 'Blizzard of Ozz' (1980)
Osbourne's solo debut is one of the greatest heavy rock albums of all time. Blizzard of Ozz introduced the world to the talents of Rhoads, whose remarkable fusion of Van Halen-esque technique with classical music forms reinvented rock guitar playing. Nowhere was that more apparent than on "Mr. Crowley," which boasts two lightning-fast-yet-still-melodic solos that rank among the greatest rock guitar passages in history. Besides, how can you not like a song about the elusive magus Aleister Crowley – whose dark influence also informed the works of Jimmy Page.
'I Don't Know'From: 'Blizzard of Ozz' (1980)
Osbourne has often said that he isn't a hero or role model for anyone, pointing to his own decades-long struggle with substance abuse as a prime reason. In "I Don't Know," he set that anti-hero credo to music, telling his fans, "Don't look at me for answers / Don't ask me, I don't know." Rhoads once again demonstrated why he was one of the essential hard rock/metal guitarists of that era with yet another mind-bending solo, along with a dissonant chord progression that somehow lends itself to a straight melody.
'Diary of a Madman'From: 'Diary of a Madman' (1981)
Rhoads borrowed liberally from a classical guitar etude for the title song of Ozzy's second solo album, providing the perfect bed track for Osbourne's dark rumination about his state of mind. Performed mostly in the unusual time signature of 7/8, the amalgam of classical, metal and progressive rock is perhaps the most strikingly original piece of music to emerge from their collaboration, easily qualifying it as one of the Top 10 Ozzy Osbourne Songs.
'Over the Mountain'From: 'Diary of a Madman' (1981)
Like Blizzard of Ozz, before it, Diary of a Madman was a track-by-track classic that stood head and shoulders above most hard rock and metal in both its composition and musical execution. The opening cut "Over the Mountain" was a prime example, a song whose aggressive drum-and-guitar rhythm track was a perfect match for a strong melody and vocal performance from Ozzy. Rhoads topped it off with another in his seemingly inexhaustible supply of jaw-dropping guitar solos.
'Bark at the Moon' From: 'Bark at the Moon' (1983)
Osbourne attempted to rebound from Rhoads' tragic death in a plane crash by hiring guitarist Jake E. Lee for his third solo album. The title track was an excellent standout from Bark at the Moon, which overall heralded a shift toward synth-y pop-metal in both the sonic production, and in Ozzy's imaging. There's no shortage of hooks and great guitar playing on Bark at the Moon, but it unfortunately helped lead Ozzy into a cartoonish, Spinal Tap-like period of self-parody that he would later look back on with embarrassment.
'Mama, I'm Coming Home'From: 'No More Tears' (1991)
Working with Zakk Wylde – the best collaborator he'd had since Rhoads died – Ozzy showcased his more sensitive side with this homage to his wife and manager Sharon, who had stood by him through a lifetime's worth of crazy by then. Ironically, the acoustic-based ballad was co-written by Lemmy from Motorhead – a man who was never known for his contributions to balladry.
'No More Tears' From: 'No More Tears' (1991)
Only Ozzy Osbourne could record a hit song about a serial killer. "No More Tears" brought Ozzy back to musical life, featuring a head-crushing guitar riff and blazing solos from Wylde, as well as one of Ozzy's best recorded vocal performances. But it is the song's seamless segue in and out of a bizarre, what-if-the-Beatles-dropped-acid-and-played-metal bridge that qualifies it as one of the Top 10 Ozzy Osbourne Songs.
'Suicide Solution' From: 'Blizzard of Ozz' (1980)
One of his most controversial tracks, "Suicide Solution" addresses Osbourne's lifelong struggle with alcoholism. He wound up getting dragged into court when a teenage fan took his life after listening to the song, but "Suicide Solution" doesn't advocate suicide; instead, the song is a cautionary tale about a liquid "solution" – alcohol – that leads to a slow death: "Wine is fine but whiskey's quicker / Suicide is slow with liquor."
'Flying High Again' From: 'Diary of a Madman' (1981)
Another in a long list of Ozzy Osbourne songs about drugs, "Flying High Again" is anything but a cautionary tale. The track – which contains a superb Rhoads solo and a strong vocal line from Ozzy – is an unabashed, unapologetic celebration of drug intoxication: "No use saying sorry / It's something that I enjoy / Flying high again." Ozzy used to openly encourage his audience to fly along with him in concert, introducing the song by screaming, "Keep on smoking those joints!"
'Crazy Train' From: 'Blizzard of Ozz' (1980)
You've got to love a guy who can make insanity mainstream – and that may be the secret to Osbourne's seemingly unlikely success. "Crazy Train" was his first solo hit, and has become his signature song. The track features a heavy rock riff that supports a genuine sense of songcraft, like much of Ozzy's best work. "Crazy Train" has appeared in films, on TV and even in mainstream commercials, and it's such a classic that it not only heads up the Top 10 Ozzy Osbourne songs, it also came in at No. 17 in our list of the Top 100 Classic Rock Songs.