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One of the most famous guitarists in the history of music turns 75: Tony Iommi. Master of the instrument, without two fingers, he has been able to turn his deficit into a strength, not getting discouraged, but believing in his talent and his dream. Born in Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, on February 19, 1948, he has been passionate about music since he was a child: from the beginning to the successes with Black Sabbath, here are the main stages of his fantastic career.
The hand injury
Before being a musician, Iommi worked in a repair shop. And there, at the age of just 17, he lost the upper phalanges of the middle and ring fingers of his right hand due to a press. The accident made him fall into a deep depression because he jeopardized his great dream of becoming a professional musician. In an interview for Kaaos TV, many years later, he himself said: “When I had that accident I knew I had to do something because I was told that I could never play again, I consulted various doctors and they all said to me ‘You better let it go ‘. But I couldn’t accept it, I had to find a solution to keep playing. So I started building spikes out of a plastic bottle. I melted the plastic and punched a hole in the middle, then molded it to my fingers and then continued to perfect it for weeks to get it to cover my fingers just right.” To play better he also decided to tune the guitar a semitone below the standard, to make the strings softer. This particular trick, which gave birth to a music with ‘dark’ tones, will be one of the distinctive features of Black Sabbath.
Success with Black Sabbath
After the crisis, the first successes arrived for Iommi’s band, Black Sabbath, real pioneers of heavy metal. The group, in the original version, was formed in Birmingham, in 1968, with the union of bassist Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi himself, singer Ozzy Osbourne and drummer Bill Ward. The success of the band’s first albums – Black Sabbath And Paranoid – will mark a paradigm shift in the world of rock. With Butler as main lyricist and Iommi as musical architect, Black Sabbath sang themes such as war, social chaos, the supernatural, the afterlife and the conflict between good and evil. Born in the sixties, the band had great success in the following decade. At the end of the tour of Technical EcstasyHowever, Osbourne left the group, due to personal events and problems caused by his addiction to alcohol and drugs. He was replaced by Ronnie James Dio and this passing of the baton generated the success – platinum record – titled Heaven and Hell.
The last disc and the final “reunion”.
Iommi is the only member of Black Sabbath who has never left the group since 1968. The band’s latest studio album is 13. Released on June 10, 2013 by Vertigo Records and Republic Records, the album marks the important return of Ozzy Osbourne to the studio, absent from Never Say Die! from 1978, and Geezer Butler who was missing from a Sabbath record since Cross Purposes from 1994. It should also be remembered that the original quartet has reunited on a handful of occasions. Above all, the final one in 2017: on February 4 of that year the band held their last concert in the hometown of the group’s founding members (excluding Ward), at the Genting Arena in Birmingham. The last live album was also released that year The End: Live in Birmingham which documents the very last performance of the group.
Iommi and his autobiography
The story of Tony Iommi’s “exploits” is contained not only in his music, but also in his autobiography which bears the title of: Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. It tells the story of the group that Rolling Stone called “the Beatles of heavy metal” and reveals the secrets of the man behind the rock icon. Tony does not spare the details of his hectic childhood, failed marriages, personal tragedies, bandmates, with all the ups and downs of an artist’s life. The book is from 2011, a year before the musician was diagnosed with lymphoma, which he then defeated. In 2017, in an interview, speaking of his disease, Iommi explained: “I live from day to day, and every day is a victory. I hope the cancer is finally defeated, but we cannot say for sure.”