Geezer Butler Recalls Being Fired From Black Sabbath by Bill Ward
When Black Sabbath decided they had to split with Ozzy Osbourne in 1979, it was drummer Bill Ward who gave the singer the news.
But in a new interview with Rolling Stone, bassist Geezer Butler recalled that Ward had previously pulled the same thing on him, even though it wasn't first discussed with Osbourne or guitarist Tony Iommi.
“Bill likes to be the business one in the band,” Butler said. “In fact, before Ozzy, he told me that I was fired. When I was back in England, he came round to the house one day. He says, ‘We’ve had a meeting with the rest of the guys, and you’re fired.’ ‘Oh, thanks.’ And then he left. I asked Tony and Ozzy about it, and they said they didn’t know what I was on about. So, I think Bill definitely liked to be the businessperson in the band, so he took it upon himself to tell Ozzy.”
“He kind of took it upon himself,” Iommi agreed. ‘He didn’t tell any of us he was doing it. The three of us were going to talk to Ozzy together, and Bill decided to do it by himself.” That didn’t upset the guitarist. “It had to be done anyway,” he reflected. “I couldn’t do it, because I was crying my head off, saying, ‘Oh, no. We can’t let him go,'" Butler added.
Iommi went on to say that Osbourne simply “wasn’t into it anymore,” recalling that attempts to write an album in Los Angeles had failed: “I came up with a few riffs. He sang a vocal on ‘Children of the Sea,’ but that was the only full version we had of something from us. ... He was ready to leave anyway, I think.”
The original singer’s departure led to the arrival of Ronnie James Dio, who helped breathe new life into Black Sabbath. But Iommi remembered manager Don Arden pushing against the lineup change.
“He wasn’t interested in having Ronnie. He wanted Ozzy,” the guitarist said. “I said to Don, ‘Ozzy’s not into it anymore. He doesn’t want to do it anymore. He’s sort of burnt out.’ And Don’s going, ‘I’ll get him back. Don’t worry about that.’ I said, ‘No, you can’t just make somebody do it.’ Don’s attitude was, ‘We’ll make him do it,’ and Ozzy … he just needed that break.”