Tony Iommi is synonymous with heavy rock, having more or less invented the genre single-handedly with the dark and doom of Black Sabbath.
Born on February 19, 1948, in Birmingham, England, Iommi picked up the guitar after being inspired by the likes of Hank Marvin & the Shadows as a teenager. By 1967, Iommi had played with several blues-based rock bands, and formed a group (Earth) with three old acquaintances from his school days — bassist Terry "Geezer" Butler, drummer Bill Ward, and singer John "Ozzy" Osbourne.
But Iommi's musical career was nearly derailed prematurely when he suffered a horrible accident at a sheet metal factory, when a machine sliced off the tips of the fingers on his right hand. Depressed and figuring that his guitar playing days were behind him, a friend turned him onto guitarist Django Reinhardt (who lost use of two fingers in a gypsy caravan campfire accident), inspiring Iommi to give the six-string another go, with soft plastic tips attached to the ends of his fingers.
Shortly thereafter, Iommi received a tempting offer to join Jethro Tull's band in 1968, which he reluctantly accepted. After only a single performance with Tull (playing the track "Song for Jeffrey" on the Rolling Stones' never-aired TV special "Rock & Roll Circus"), Iommi split from Tull to return back to his pals in Earth.
With another band already playing around England by the name of Earth, Iommi & co. were forced to change their name, taking "Black Sabbath" from the American title of the classic Italian horror movie “I Tre Volti Della Paura”.
With the name switch came a change in musical direction — the band would explore dark lyrical subjects, while the music would be repetitive, plodding and heavy. In the process, Sabbath created the blueprint for heavy metal with such incredibly influential, all-time classic releases as their 1969 self-titled debut, 1971's Paranoid and Master of Reality, 1972's Vol. 4, and 1973's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, becoming one of the world's top hard rock bands in the process. Iommi's guitar playing propelled such metal standards as "Black Sabbath," "N.I.B.," "Paranoid," "Iron Man," "War Pigs," "Into the Void," and "Children of the Grave," which boast some of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock history.
But by the mid- to late '70s, constant touring and drug abuse began to fracture the band, leading to Osbourne’s exit in 1979. After keeping the Sabbath name alive with several inspired non-Osbourne releases, including the Ronnie Dio albums - 1980's “Heaven & Hell” and 1981's “The Mob Rules” – which re-established the band’s commercial success, Iommi then shifted the band’s focus to Europe and recorded a number of albums with Tony Martin, including “Headless Cross”, and undertook ground-breaking tours to Russia and all parts East.
The original Sabbath line-up reunited for highly successful tours in the late '90s, making new Sabbath fans out of a whole legion of people too young to have caught the band in their '70s heyday. A Grammy Award followed the “Reunion” tour when the track “Iron Man” (recorded at the Birmingham NEC and taken from the tour’s live album) won in the Best Metal Performance category in 1999.
And although a few Sabbath albums from the '80s and '90s could have arguably been considered Tony Iommi solo albums (1986's Seventh Star was labelled a Sabbath album at the last moment by Warner Bros.), he issued his first true solo release in the form of 2000's “Iommi”. The ten-track disc, which was very warmly received by both the press and the public, featured many of rock's top names lending their vocal talents including Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan, Phil Anselmo and Ozzy Osbourne, among others.
The following year Iommi returned to touring, with Black Sabbath as the headline act at 2001’s Ozzfest. The band earned a second Grammy nomination for the track “The Wizard” from the live album “Ozzfest 2001: The Second Millennium” that followed the tour.
On 3rd June 2002, he joined Ozzy to perform “Paranoid” in front of the Queen, the Royal Family and 12,000 members of the public on the lawn of Buckingham Palace at a concert to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
As one of the writers of “Changes”, Iommi received his first Ivor Novello nomination when the song competed in the category Best Selling UK Single following the 2003 cover released by Ozzy & Kelly Osbourne.
The early part of 2004 was spent in the studio working on solo projects, including putting the finishing touches to material recorded with Glenn Hughes in Birmingham in 1996, which was picked up by Sanctuary Records for an autumn release under the title “The 1996 DEP Sessions”. In between this, Tony and the 3 other members of the original Black Sabbath line-up reunited as the headline act for summer 2004’s Ozzfest in the USA.