Friday, April 24, 2015

Ozzy Osbourne, "Mama, I'm Coming Home"

6 Days to Find a Home

There's a probably apocryphal story of a young Bob Dylan approaching Mick Jagger to tell him, "I could have wirtten 'Satisfaction,' but you couldn't have written 'Mr. Tambourine Man.'" To which Jagger responded, "Yes, but you couldn't sing 'Satisfaction.'"

Ozzy Osbourne is not a great songwriter. By now we've all heard about how Iommi wrote the riffs and Geezer Butler wrote most of the lyrics on the classic Black Sabbath albums, and only a fool couldn't notice that Ozzy's only great solo albums--Blizzard Of Ozz, Diary of a Madman and No More Tears--were assembled with his two best backing bands. The wiriting credits of some of his best singles ("Bark at the Moon", "Shot in the Dark" and Perry Mason" among them) often show outside help, and have been disputed in court over the years. He's a self-admitted a rock star first and a musician second. But boy, what a rock star.

It's not just that he's a rock star, as heard on his biggest solo hit, "Mama, I'm Coming Home." Written primarily by Lemmy (who surely knew this couldn't be a Motörhead song) and guitarist Zakk Wylde
(years away from the self-parodying Black Label Society), "Mama" is one of the only power ballads that earns the classification. Wylde's playing is as delicate and diverse at is would get, but it's Osbourne's show, pushing a voice with far more character than range to deliver more heartfelt sentiments than anyone thought Ozzy, or metal in general, was capable of. He's a rock star, but imagine any other rock star, even Ozzy's closest peers--Brian Johnson, David Lee Roth, Steven Tyler, Lemmy, Joan Jett, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Paul Stanley, Alice Cooper--pulling off "Mama, I'm Coming Home." It doesn't work.

Perhaps Ozzy scores because he'd prefer to sing "Mama" than "Crazy Train". Part of his appeal is that he's metal's wolfman ("barking at the moon"), a gentle giant whose crazy side came to the top at the right moment. Osbourne once said that his family's TV show felt like being the Wizard of Oz telling people to ignore the man behind the curtain. He must've forgotten that he already ripped the curtain down on track three of No More Tears.

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