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The 10 most iconic Black Sabbath & Ozzy Osbourne riffs

As the Prince Of Darkness announces the end of his long and legendary touring career, we look back at the greatest riffs his all-star sidemen have fired out on stages the world over.

Ozzy Osbourne performs at the World Music Theater, Tinley Park, Chicago, Illinois, August 20, 2000

Image: Paul Natkin / Getty Images

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Last week, Ozzy Osbourne made the announcement that due to ongoing ill-health he would be cancelling his planned European tour and retiring from touring for good. It wasn’t a huge shock to those who have noted the number of canceled shows, rescheduled dates, and general uncertainty which has swirled around the 74-year-old metal madman for the last several years, but it still feels like the end of a magical era.

Ozzy finally hanging up his devil horns might have been inevitable, but it’s still a guy punch to the metal masses, and there will be a gaping void left behind which even the most largert than life personalities in metal will struggle to fully fill.

But for now, let’s remember the good times – for the last 50 years, Ozzy Osbourne has been a singularity into whose orbit some of the most talented, creative and downright evil guitar players in the history of metal have been pulled.

Ozzy might not be a guitar player, but he sure as hell knows how to find a good one – whether that’s the inimitable Tony Iommi in Black Sabbath, or the likes of Randy Rhoads, Jake E Lee, and Zakk Wylde as a solo artist.

In tribute to the end of one of the most distinguished careers in metal then, here are the 10 best Ozzy guitar moments… ever!

10. Now You See It (Now You Don’t) from Bark at the Moon (1983)

Guitarist: Jake E Lee

Perhaps a deep cut to some, truth be told, Now You See It (Now You Don’t) contains some of Jake E Lee’s heaviest riffing. If there’s one critique of Bark at the Moon as an album, it is the slightly awkward synth moments, and while there are a few here, Lee pays no mind to them. Instead, he fiercely chugs through, laying down a deep torrent of fury while doing his best Tony Iommi impression throughout.

9. Miracle Man from No Rest for the Wicked (1988)

Guitarist: Zakk Wylde

From the onset of 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked, newcomer Zakk Wylde made his hulking presence known through lurching, groove-laden riffs. It was plain to see that Wylde, while a shredder himself, was an entirely different animal than Lee. While Miracle Man is known to contain one of the berserker’s best solos, it’s the riff that lays a solid bedrock for the rest of the band to do its fervent work over.

8. Bark at the Moon from Bark at the Moon (1983)

Guitarist: Jake E Lee

It’s not a stretch to say that Bark at the Moon is the most well-known cut from Ozzy’s Jake E. Lee era, and it’s for good reason – it’s a monster. Lee races through the song with a winding yet catchy riff, which is a perfect foil for Ozzy’s echoing vocals. For the uninitiated, Bark at the Moon is a prime example of what made Lee immeasurably great in his era. Moreover, it’s one of the Prince of Darkness’s most exhilarating tracks.

7. Supernaut from Vol. 4 (1972)

Guitarist: Tony Iommi

A classic plucked from Sabbath’s 70s heyday, Supernaut has long been a fan favorite and a staple of young guitarists looking to learn new riffs. Like many Iommi riffs, it’s not overly technical, but it’s uber-memorable just the same. A lasting image of Iommi’s style personified, Supernaut is a prime example of the glorious simplicity that Iommi achieved through inventive thinking and a knack for pure riffage.

6. No More Tears from No More Tears (1991)

Guitarist: Zakk Wylde

No More Tears, as an album, is jampacked with memorable guitar-driven moments, but as far as most impactful riffs are concerned, the title track brings home the gold. The riff is par for Wylde’s course, with suffocating rhythms being bookended by intense flourishes of frenzied mania. For decades the song has been a darling of FM radio, and that’s in no small part to Wylde’s earworm of a riff. It’s no wonder that Ozzy has often referred to No More Tears as a “gift from God.”

5. Over the Mountain from Diary of a Madman (1981)

Guitarist: Randy Rhoads

As Randy Rhoads’s slick licks kick in at the onset of Over the Mountain, listeners are put on notice that they’re in for a hell of a ride. As heavy as they come, Rhoads, as he was oh-so-great at doing, managed to inject just enough pop pizazz to go along with Ozzy’s inherent hysteria. The perfect emanating from Rhoads’s fingertips is apparent with this one, which, if nothing else, was seemingly plucked from the heavens above and tailor-made for late-night air guitar heroics.

4. Sweet Leaf from Master of Reality (1971)

Guitarist: Tony Iommi

Lord Iommi seldom wasted time when riffing, and Sweet Leaf, from Master of Reality aka, Sabbath’s finest hour, is no exception. In retrospect, Sweet Leaf – for obvious reasons – is considered a stoner anthem and a pillar upon which the associated genre was built. All of that aside, though, Iommi’s grumbling, gnarly guitars, outfitted in his quintessential Drop D tuning, are a thing of proto-metal magnificence, the likes of which made much of what came after possible.

3. Iron Man from Paranoid (1970)

Guitarist: Tony Iommi

Many Sabbath songs would be deemed “iconic” and “legendary,” and even more contain killer riffs. In the case of Iron Man, all of the above apply. Moreover, it’s probably the Birmingham legend’s most well-known track. Is it their best song? You be the judge. But countless teenage guitar hopefuls have gathered around small starter amps, cheap guitar in hand, painstakingly attempting to learn Iron Man’s well-worn riff. That alone signifies its enduring importance within riff lore.

2. Paranoid from Paranoid (1970)

Guitarist: Tony Iommi

If Iron Man is Iommi’s most well-known, then Paranoid is perhaps his magnificent from the standpoint of sheer riffage. If we look at this from the context of Paranoid being released, or should we say unleashed, in 1970, its relevance becomes even more impactful. Save for a few instances (oh, hello, Jimmy Page’s Communication Breakdown); not many songs implemented the levels of heaviness mixed with speed riffing the way Paranoid did. In short, this track blew people’s minds when it came out.

1. Crazy Train from Blizzard of Ozz (1980)

Guitarist: Randy Rhoads

Say what you will, but through the lens of Ozzy’s solo career, it’s hard to argue that Crazy Train doesn’t contain the most iconic riff of Osbourne’s long career. What’s more, it’s laid down by the most talented six-stringer Osbourne ever shared the stage with. Justifiably so, Crazy Train is lauded for its torrential solo and catchy chorus, which has found it saturating FM radio for over forty years. But make no mistake, none of that would have been possible had Rhoads not crafted what could be considered the quintessential 80s heavy metal riff.

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