Any American Christian who was a teenager in the 1980s recalls churches and youth conventions putting on “rock seminars,” when preachers would do their best to discourage others from listening to what we believers have always called “secular music.” We all marveled and gasped at the sordid tales, photographs and lyrics of what we were led to believe were SURELY the world’s sickest, most vile human beings.
I recall the rants and raves about many rock’n’rollers, but none were more hated and railed on than Mr. John “Ozzy” Osbourne.
Back then, I was convinced Ozzy was the devil incarnate, until my best friend, Kurt, played me one of Ozzy’s solo albums. Sure, the imagery sought to convey an evil persona, but I just didn’t get that feeling from the lyrics.
In fact, something about his search for a deeper meaning in life struck a chord with me. Combine that with his high-pitched voice and screaming guitars, and MAN, I was hooked.
The subject matter of Ozzy’s songs runs the gamut of the human experience, from love and the loss of it, to war, famine, Heaven, Hell, his great love of rock’n’roll and much more. He sings of rebellion, drugs and death. He also sings about the search for meaning in life, admitting that, just because he’s a celebrity doesn’t mean he has the answers:
“Don’t look to me for answers, I don’t know” (1)
“The road to nowhere leads to me” (2)
I will proudly admit I’m a huge fan of music. I dig many styles, but my preference is hard rock and heavy metal. While my daily dose of music may consist of songs from dozens of albums by many performers, like all passionate music fans, I have my one or two favorites. One of those is Ozzy.
I don’t listen to as much of his music as I used to, but he’s still my favorite rock artist.
As a follower of Christ, I listen to mostly Christian music these days, but at least a few times a week I get in the mood for something else. A former Pastor once admitted she also has these moods, and likes to listen to 70s rock, which I thought was bold of her to concede.
Before I go any further, please let me assert: the purpose of this blog is not to stir up controversy, “excuse” my habit of listening to so-called “secular” music, or paint myself as some type of rebel. The only thing I rebel against these days is the devil, honestly. Well, that and my chronic pain and depression, which I rebel against by encouraging others.
I have an artistic personality, as does my son and a lot of our friends. With him being in a Christian heavy metal band, a lot of our acquaintances are involved in music in some way, so we have a LOT of friends who are “artsy” in one way or another, just like us.
Many of us enjoy the feeling or spirit of certain bands, and not just Christian either. When I say the “spirit” of the music, I’m not referring to anything angelic or demonic, necessarily, but rather, the mood. We appreciate the nuances of some singers, the playing style of certain musicians, and the lyrical content of others.
Regarding Ozzy, he admits pushing the “evil” image for many, many years, but as he approached the recording of “No More Tears” (1991), had grown tired of that and wanted to just be himself. That album contains many songs about his love of rock’n’roll, which is one of the reasons it sits near the top of my list of favorite albums.
Concerning the “devil” image, when asked how he replied when people ask if Black Sabbath were worshipers of Satan, he said, “Well, I never talk religion. I don’t understand organized religion. But I strive to be good, although it feels good to be bad, sometimes. I’m not bad, like, evil bad. I’m bad, in that I’m a naughty boy. I’m not a guy that worships the (expletive) devil. When Black Sabbath started, we got invited to an (expletive) graveyard at midnight. We told them: ‘Our (dark) image is a joke.’” (3)
Despite trying to keep up “evil” appearances over the years, even going so far as to say he didn’t believe in God in his autobiography, I Am Ozzy, on the documentary “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” (2011) (finely crafted by his son, Jack), we clearly see Ozzy kneeling in prayer before a concert.
Many still believe he’s Satan’s plaything, but over the last few years he’s been trying to shed that image a bit:
“I’m not the kind of person you think I am
I’m not the Antichrist or the iron man” (4)
Having been a believer for nearly five decades, I fully understand many people are at the place in their Christian walk where they don’t feel comfortable listening to music like Ozzy. Yeah, I totally get it. There are also some bands I used to love, which I no longer feel comfortable with.
In 1 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul confronted a controversial subject like this. Some followers of “The Way” felt it was acceptable to eat food which non-Christians had offered to idols. After all, the food itself didn’t embody the idol, right? Others, though, didn’t feel they should partake, and railed against it (like the rock seminarists in the 80s). In response, Paul basically said, “If it bothers someone you are with, don’t do it.” That’s the way many Christians are with secular artists: if listening to Ozzy bothers you, COOL, I won’t do it when we’re together.
For example, my daughter used to be a HUGE Ozzy fan, but doesn’t really listen to him anymore, even though she loves his music. Thus, I’ll play an Ozzy CD when I’m hangin’ out with my son, but not with her. No big deal.
It’s all a matter of respect. You respect my choices, I respect yours.
Philippians 2:12b says we must “continue to work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling.” Thus, with a healthy respect for our Lord, we are encouraged to proceed with caution through each day.
I’m not “pushing” Ozzy on you, I’m just saying, PLEASE DON’T JUDGE OTHERS FOR NOT BEING EXACTLY LIKE YOU.
I have Christians in my family who listen to country music, which is cool. Some believers paint all “secular” music—including country—as “evil,” and that’s fine for them, I suppose. I listen to a plethora of genres and artists, however, always keeping in mind that it’s my job as a follow of Christ to honor Him with my choices.
Bottom line is, I’m the one who will have to answer to God for those choices, not you.
If your history, place in life or spiritual sensibilities won’t allow you to enjoy Ozzy’s music, I respect that. Just don’t try and put that on me. No offense.
Jesus spent the majority of His time on Earth LOVING people, which is what I feel we should do as well. I’m not about to argue about something as silly as music, when I could be making you smile by posting a picture of my grandkids, or making you laugh by sharing a funny anecdote or story.
If you wanna quibble about which artists “we” as the collective body of Christ should or should not listen to, you’ll have to seek your argument somewhere else, because I’m not gonna get into that with you, man.
For now, I will say that it seems Ozzy is on a journey which appears to be drawing him closer to God. Some have said he’s a Christian, but I honestly can’t say one way or the other, since he’s not officially came out of the religious closet. Again, it’s not my job to judge, but he’s definitely a lot more “God-friendly” than he used to be.
In 2013, Black Sabbath released “13,” which will probably be their last album. Many of us were disturbed, though, when we saw a song title on the album called “God Is Dead?”
“Some have been told that God is dead,” Geezer Butler, Bassist for Black Sabbath, said. “(Ozzy) wants to prove that God is alive and well. That’s what the song is about.” (5)
Over a dozen times in the song, Ozzy sings those three cryptic words, “God is dead.” Upon closer inspection of the lyrics, however, you’ll hear him asking “Is God really dead?” We witness a fight going on in his head, and then finally, he says, “I don’t believe that God is dead.” In fact, he even sings, “My Maker and Savior, help me make it through the night.”
“God is Dead?” (partial lyrics)
Lost in the darkness
I fade from the light
Faith of my father, my brother, my Maker and Savior
Help me make it through the night
The voices echo in my head
Is God alive or is God dead?
Is God dead?
Will someone tell me the answer?
Is God really dead?
Is God really dead?
To safeguard my philosophy
Until my dying breath
I transfer from reality
Into a mental death
I empathize with enemies
Until the timing’s right
With God and Satan at my side
From darkness will come light
These riddles that live in my head
I don’t believe that God is dead
Do you believe a word
What the good book said?
Or is it just a holy fairytale
And God is dead?
But still the voices in my head
Are telling me that God is dead
The blood pours down
The rain turns red
I don’t believe that God is dead” (6)
Clearly there’s a struggle going on inside, but at the end of the day, both Ozzy and lyricist Geezer Butler say, “I don’t believe that God is dead.”
We can all relate to this struggle. Ozzy has been through hell, and much of it was his own choosing, to be certain, but I have mad respect for the man. Additionally, with him recently revealing he has Parkinson’s Disease, I’ve chosen to support him, not rage against him.
Keep searching, brothers. We’re rootin’ for ya. Ain’t no hate here; only love.
Thanks for reading.
- Lyrics from “I Don’t Know”
Written by Brian Kelly Mcknight
As Performed by Ozzy Osbourne
© 1980 Universal Music Publishing Group
- Lyrics from “Road To Nowhere”
By John Osbourne / Randolph Frank Castillo / Zakk Wylde
© 1991 BMG Rights Management
- Lyrics from “Gets Me Through”
By John Osbourne / Timothy Jerome Parker
© 2001 BMG Rights Management, Tp Songs
- Lyrics from “God is Dead?”
By Terence Butler / Tony Iommi / John Osbourne
© 2012 BMG Rights Management