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Taken from Biography (Aug 18, 2020)

The Plane Crash That Changed Ozzy Osbourne's Life

The rock star was reveling in the success of a solo career, when the unimaginable happened, ending the life of his close friend and musical confidante Randy Rhoads.

by Rachel Chang


Photo: Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo: Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


Ozzy Osbourne has always been about reinventing himself. No matter what hurdles life threw at him, he always found a way to stack everything back up and find success in a new realm. But there's one incident that he has never gotten over - even to this day.


The British musician had made a name for himself as the vocalist for the metal band Black Sabbath in the 1970s. With fast-paced success also came drug and alcohol abuse - eventually leading to Osbourne being kicked out of the group in 1979.


"He got fired from one of the biggest rock bands in the world," his wife Sharon Osbourne says in the two-hour special, Biography: The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne, airing September 7 at 9/8c on A&E. "He was an addict, so they wrote him off."


But in true Osbourne style, that downfall started him on the path to a solo career, which was looking bright, until a tragic plane crash.


Osbourne says guitarist Randy Rhoads 'pulled the best out of me'


When Osbourne first found himself without a band, he started on a downward spiral. His then-manager turned future wife Sharon had said she'd manage him as a solo act. While that provided some hope, he still needed a spark.


The two meshed perfectly, but more importantly, Osbourne discovered his purpose again. "As soon as he found Randy, it was like night and day," Sharon says. "He was alive again. Randy was a breath of fresh air, funny, ambitious, just a great guy."


With Sharon as his manager and her dad financing his solo start, Osbourne was back to what he did best, creating music, this time with a partner he saw eye-to-eye with. "One thing that he gave to me was hope, he gave me a reason for carrying on," he says. "He had patience with me, which was great. He was great to work with. He pulled the best out of me. We had a lot of fun."


Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images
Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads perform during the Blizzard of Ozz Tour at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York, on August 14, 1981. Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images


The plane crash Killed Rhoads - and nearly Killed the Osbournes


Soon they were taking the fun on the road. "I remember we did a gig in Knoxville, Tennessee, and we were driving from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Orlando, Florida, to do a gig with Foreigner," the now 71-year-old musician recalls.


They were staying at a mansion on March 19, 1982, before their concert in Leesburg when tragedy struck around noon.


"Ozzy and I were sleeping in the back of the bus, and we got woken up by this huge, huge blast," Sharon remembers.


Even now, almost four decades later, Osbourne speaks about the incident with devastation, remembering seeing a gigantic blaze. "I couldn't understand what's going on - it's like I've been in a nightmare," he says.


Sharon recalls bassist Rudy Sarzo shouting, "Get off the bus!" while Sarzo adds, "We all get out of the bus and we had no idea what was going on."


When Sharon got out of the bus, she saw the tour manager on his knees crying. She turned and saw an airplane sticking up through a house.


In the plane were 25-year-old Rhoads, 36-year-old pilot Andrew Aycock and 58-year-old hairdresser Rachel Youngblood.


"They had been on a plane and the plane had crashed," Sarzo says. "One or two inches lower, it would have crashed into the bus, and we would have blown up right there."


While the exact details of how the plane crashed are unclear, their fate was certain. "I don't know what the hell happened that killed them, but everyone died on the plane," Osbourne says.


Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
The mother of Randy Rhoads along with (L-R) Zakk Wylde, Ozzy Osbourne, Yngwie Malmsteen, Sharon Osbourne and Rudy Sarzo attend the ceremony in which the guitarist was honored posthumously and inducted into the Hollywood Rockwalk on March 18, 2004, in Hollywood, California. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images


Osbourne still feels guilty about the crash


The effect of the cast on Osbourne's life was tremendous, especially losing such a cherished friend and musical partner. "I lost a dear friend in my life - I miss him terribly," Osbourne admits. "I just bathed my wounds with alcohol and drugs."


Sarzo says that the stakes for Sharon's job also became greater since she didn't just have to keep the singer from drugs and alcohol, but "doing damage to himself" as well.


In every sense of the word, Rhoads had been "everything" to Osbourne, his wife says. "Ozzy still to this day feels guilty. 'If only I was awake, I would never have let him get on that plane.' And, you know, it's something that Ozzy lives with," she reveals.


After that, every show became a tribute to the guitarist whose life was cut so short - and even though Osbourne eventually continued on to decades of success and even television stardom, the crash still weighs on him.


"The day that Randy Rhoads died was the day a part of me died," he says.


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"Biography: The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne," premiering Labor Day, September 7 at 9/8c on A&E traces Ozzy's life from his childhood in poverty and time in prison to fronting legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Black Sabbath and successful Grammy Award-winning solo career, to one of rock's elder statesman and a loveable 21st-century television dad.



 
 

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