Personalities | Tony Iommi | Black Sabbath’s Iron Man | Guitar Heroes

Frank Anthony Iommi (b. 1948) was born in Birmingham, England. Like so many other teenage boys in 1960s Britain, he was inspired to pick up the guitar upon hearing Hank Marvin and The Shadows.

In 1967, after playing in various local acts, Iommi hooked up with three former school mates – Bill Ward (drums), Terry ‘Geezer’ Butler (bass) and John ‘Ozzy’ Osbourne – to form the blues-rock outfit Earth. But just as Iommi was set to begin a full-time music career, he suffered a horrific accident on the last day of his job at a sheet-metal factory, where a machine sliced the tips off his right hand’s index and ring fingers. Crafting artificial fingertips from melted plastic bottle-tops covered with leather, the disciplined young guitarist persevered.

Earth later changed their name to Black Sabbath, and with it, a new, darker and heavier musical direction emerged. When the band entered the studio in 1970 to record their self-titled debut, Iommi, like his idol Marvin, was a dedicated Fender Stratocaster player. While recording the first track, one of his pickups blew, so he picked up a Gibson SG he had as a backup, and the iconic sight and sound of Iommi paired to an SG was born. When Sabbath released their landmark Paranoid, also in 1970, it was clear that heavy metal was here to stay, and the band’s next three albums, Master Of Reality (1971), Vol. 4 (1972) and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973), cemented their position as the most influential heavy-metal band of all time. With such leaden yet glorious riffs as ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘Paranoid’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘N.I.B.’ and ‘Iron Man’, Iommi secured his place as the father of heavy-metal guitar.

Although Osbourne left the band to pursue a solo career in 1979, Iommi kept the Sabbath locomotor chugging with a rotating stable of singers. In late 1998, the original Black Sabbath line-up released Reunion, a live album that earned the band a second chance at the spotlight. They headlined summer festivals several times in the 2000s, inspiring a new generation of metal fans and musicians to carry the heavy-metal torch.

In 2007, Iommi teamed up with Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice to form Heaven & Hell. They toured the US and UK in 2007 and released their first studio album, The Devil You Know, in 2009, but disbanded in 2010 following Dio’s death. Iommi published an autobiography in 2011.

Essential Recordings

Black Sabbath: Paranoid

Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Black Sabbath: Reunion

Heaven & Hell: The Devil You Know

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