By John Roberts, CNN
It was January, 1985 in Rio De Janiero. I was a fresh-faced kid from Canada with a rather amusing mullet – he was a seasoned rock road warrior who had the rather dubious ability to consume lethal quantities of drugs and alcohol and somehow, miraculously, not die.
It was under the tropical Brazilian sun – the sweet sounds of samba in the air, that I was first introduced to Ozzy Osbourne – former lead singer of Black Sabbath – the Prince of Darkness – a man for whom extreme was just far too tame when it came to lifestyles.
Something had dawned on Ozzy several weeks earlier. He decided that he didn’t want to die before the age of 40, and checked himself into the Betty Ford clinic. We talked at length about his experiences – cleaning toilets, vacuuming the floor, making coffee for the staff and how he had decided that just because you’re a rock star doesn’t mean you have to be out of it ALL the time.
It was the first of what would be many attempts at rehab – a battle against an addiction that nearly destroyed him a dozen times, and came close to taking the life of his dear wife Sharon when – in the midst of an alcohol-induced rage, he tried to strangle her. Ozzy woke up in jail the next day with not a clue as to what had happened.
Somehow, against the odds, he managed to reach the ripe old age of 61, and pen one of the more compelling rock autobiographies I have ever read.
“I Am Ozzy” traces his journey from the humble streets of Aston, England through a blizzard of cocaine, prescription drugs, alcohol and rock and roll excess and finally finds him a sober, loving family man who is amazed that he actually survived it all. It’s a zany romp, if rather disturbing at times, for the sheer volume of substance abuse. Literally every funny story revolves around drugs, like the time he thought the band’s cocaine-filled house in L.A. was being raided by the police and he attempted to destroy a mountain of evidence by snorting it. Turns out, he had accidentally hit the burglar alarm while trying to adjust the thermostat.
I sat down with Ozzy – 25 years almost to the day we first met to discuss the book, and his remarkable tale of survival. He is incredibly lucid for a man who should have few neural neurons left at his disposal and is in surprisingly good health (a function of working out almost every day). He’s also a great story teller – the natural frontman – and can still recount things that happened 50 years ago in extraordinary detail.
Meanwhile, I can’t remember what I did last week.