As a teenager, Tony Iommi picked up a guitar and never looked back, going on to become a pioneer of rock ‘n roll.
However, the left-handed guitarist’s future as a rock ‘n roll icon was nearly cut short when he lost the tips of his fingers on his right hand in an industrial accident on his last day on the job.
But he started playing again, attaching plastic caps to the tips of his mangled fingers and using lighter gauge banjo strings. He also slackened his strings to accommodate his injury, producing a lower more distinctive sound that would follow him throughout his career.
Along with his school friends Terry “Geezer” Butler, Bill Ward and John “Ozzy” Osbourne, Iommi started a band called Earth. In 1968, he joined Jethro Tull, but left the group after only one performance – playing “Song for Jeffrey” on a Rolling Stones’ TV special that never aired.
Iommi made his way back to Earth, who later changed their name to Black Sabbath after getting tired of being confused for another English group. Along with the darker title, Iommi and his friends transformed the group from a blues and jazz group to recording songs that examined war, death and religion, leading to their self-titled debut in 1970.
Black Sabbath released albums year after year, quickly becoming gods in the world of heavy metal. Iommi put his signature style into songs like “Children Of The Grave” and 1973’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” setting a standard for all metal guitarists to follow.
But in the late ‘70s, as a result of drug abuse and touring pressures, lead singer Ozzy Osbourne left the group. In 1980, with the release of Heaven And Hell, Black Sabbath was only being held together by Iommi, who was the sole original member still in the band.
The years have seen Iommi and Black Sabbath touring off and on with material from previous albums. But after 35 years, Ozzy and the rest of Sabbath reunited to record a LP named 13, earning them another Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
Black Sabbath spent much of last year touring with their new material, but the recently band announced that they’d be hitting the road again in 2014. And none of it would have been possible without the man who stuck by the group for all those years. Happy birthday, Tony Iommi!