Considering everything that happened in 2020, it’s actually quite easy to forget about some of the positive things from this year, especially if they happened pre-coronavirus, which seems like another lifetime ago. However, something rock fans the world over need to be grateful for this year was the release of Ordinary Man, the twelfth studio album from Ozzy Osbourne.
Released on February 21, Ordinary Man marked Ozzy’s first new album since 2010’s Scream. Despite being shut out from receiving any Grammy nominations, Ordinary Man was Ozzy’s best album in decades and boasted an incredible lineup of guests including Slash, Duff McKagan, Elton John, Tom Morello, Chad Smith and Post Malone.
Frankly, the fact the album happened at all is borderline miraculous considering all of the health issues Ozzy has been battling since October 2018. Back then, he had to cancel his then remaining North American tour dates on his “No More Tours 2” farewell tour due to needing hand surgery to treat three staph infections in his right hand.
Things only got worse. In January 2019, Osbourne was diagnosed with a severe upper-respiratory infection that resulted in the postponement of the entire European leg of “No More Tours 2.” The infection developed into pneumonia that landed Osbourne in the ICU in February 2019 which led to him postponing tour legs in Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
In April 2019, all of Ozzy’s remaining tour dates that year were postponed following spine and neck surgery after he fell in his home in Los Angeles and aggravated old injuries he sustained from his 2003 ATV accident that nearly ended his life. The fall was so bad at one point doctors thought Ozzy would never walk again.
Through it all, it was making Ordinary Man that helped keep Ozzy moving forward. He said in a January 2020 interview with Kerrang!, “…I honestly think making this album is the best medicine I could have had. I was doing something, something I like to do. I wish I could do more, but it just felt great.”
When you listen to Ordinary Man, what you hear is a man coming to grips with the good, the bad and the ugly of his life. All of his health issues forced Ozzy to do something he likely hasn’t done much of during his 50+ year career: Sit down for a very, very long period of time and reflect back on everything he’s done. The over-arching theme of the album is, perhaps, most succinctly expressed in the title track, which features guest vocals from Sir Elton and two epic guitar solos from Slash.
Ozzy pleads in the song’s pre-chorus and chorus, “Don’t forget me as the colors fade/When the lights go down, it’s just an empty stage/Okay/Yes, I’ve been a bad guy/Been higher than the blue sky/And the truth is I don’t wanna die an ordinary man/I’ve made momma cry/Don’t know why I’m still alive/Yes, the truth is I don’t wanna die an ordinary man.”
While Ozzy is one of rock/metal’s biggest icons, he’s always had a flair for ballads, and “Ordinary Man” is one of the best ballads and overall songs in his entire solo catalog. The album should have nabbed a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album, but the fact “Ordinary Man” didn’t get recognized with Grammy nominations for Best Rock Performance or Best Rock Song is maybe the most ridiculous oversight. It’s a missed opportunity for the Recording Academy to “give a man his flowers” who has more than deserved them.
What 2021 holds for Ozzy Osbourne is unknown, but what rock fans learned in 2020 (and 2019, for that matter) is this: Even with every conceivable setback thrown at him, everyone’s favorite Prince of Darkness will never stop swinging for the fences. And sometimes, he can still knock it out of the park.