Ozzy Osbourne will always be the quintessential heavy-metal maniac, but at heart, he’s an old-school song man. His new single — the nostalgic, bittersweet, Elton John–featuring title track off his upcoming solo LP, Ordinary Man — is the latest in a long line of tender ballads from the Beatles-worshipping singer, stretching all the way back to Black Sabbath torch songs like “Changes.” And while it might seem odd to hear the Prince of Darkness sharing mic time with the Rocket Man, he’s also proved himself to be a die-hard devotee of that classic pop format: the duet. Here are five times he traded lyrics with other singers, from Motörhead’s Lemmy to none other than Miss Piggy.
“Close My Eyes Forever,” with Lita Ford (1988)
Ozzy was messing around in the studio in 1988 when he half-wrote a song that would become one of his most enduring power ballads. “Close My Eyes Forever,” co-written and sung with Lita Ford (who was managed by Ozzy’s wife Sharon at the time), would end up on Ford’s third solo album Lita. “‘You know what Lita? You can have it,’” Ozzy recalled telling Ford in an interview with Esquire. “’I don’t want nothing from it. You can have the song.'” He’d go on to fully embrace the track, and the video — featuring Ford and Osbourne sporting unintentionally identical hairstyles — would become an MTV staple and showcase the Prince of Darkness’s softer side to a wider audience.
“I Ain’t No Nice Guy,” with Motörhead (1992)
Ozzy and Lemmy Kilmister had a long-running bromance going back to the time before Motörhead, when Hawkwind, the pioneering space-rock combo that featured Lemmy as a bassist, shared a practice space with Black Sabbath. Then Motörhead toured with Ozzy on his first solo run, the pair started sharing World War II memorabilia, and they eventually started writing songs together. Kilmister penned lyrics for four tracks on Ozzy’s quadruple-platinum 1991 album No More Tears, including the Grammy-winning “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” A year later, the pals teamed up again to trade verses on an outlaw-country (!) duet on Motörhead’s 1992 album, March ör Die, “I Ain’t No Nice Guy.” The song begins with Kilmister’s hilariously deadpanned line, “When I was young, I was the nicest guy I knew,” and evolves into a heartfelt reflection, as Ozzy realizes, “I ain’t no nice guy after all,” over acoustic guitar, piano, and — eventually, once the song gets rocking — a Slash solo. Despite the star power, and the heat of No More Tears, March ör Die was a flop; it was Motörhead’s last major-label record for years.
“Take What You Want,” with Post Malone (2019)
Clearly, 2019 was not Ozzy Osbourne’s year. He had planned to be on the road for his final big world tour for much of it, but after a bad fall in the middle of the night sent him to the ER, he had to postpone all gigs and lie in bed in agony for months and months. Eventually, his daughter Kelly threw him a life preserver to lift his spirits, asking him if he’d want to duet with Post Malone on a new song. Ozzy had never heard of the rapper but agreed anyway, and they cut the morose, poppy, and overwhelmingly Ozzy-sounding “Take What You Want.” When the track’s producer, Andrew Watt, asked Ozzy if he’d want to put together some more tracks — he said they could make an album quickly — Ozzy said yes, and they got to work on Ordinary Man, due out February 21st. The record features a number of collaborations, including the title duet with Elton John, team-ups with Slash and Tom Morello, and guest performances throughout by a rhythm section consisting of Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith. But “Take What You Want” is perhaps most notable for getting Ozzy back onstage; late last year, he made a surprise appearance at Post Malone’s concert at the Forum in Inglewood, California, and reprised the duet at the American Music Awards. The message was clear: Ozzy was back.
“Shake Your Head, Let’s Go to Bed,” with Was (Not Was) and Madonna and Kim Basinger (1983)
Long before Don Was was the go-to producer for the Rolling Stones or the head of Blue Note Records, he was part of the avant-garde pop group Was (Not Was), perhaps best remembered for mind-twisting experiments like “Dad, I’m in Jail,” and the catchy Flintstones favorite “Walk the Dinosaur.” In late 1982, they began work on their second album, Born to Laugh at Tornadoes, and scored what turned out to be an unusual coup — a song that featured Ozzy and Madonna together. Ozzy was already famous and about to release his own Bark at the Moon LP, but Madonna was an unknown at the time and had just come in to record scratch vocals for the dance-pop track (which very much sounds like a Madonna song, aside from the goofy lyrics). When the record came out, the group replaced Madonna’s vocals with studio singers, but Madge’s version has been floating around the internet for years since in various remixed forms. To make the track’s legacy even stranger, Was (Not Was) reissued the song with Ozzy singing alongside a real head scratcher, Kim Basinger. It’s one of only a couple of recordings the actress has a recording credit on.
“Born to Be Wild,” with Miss Piggy (1994)
Of all his many iterations, ridiculously absurd Ozzy is the most underrated. In 1994, he linked with Miss Piggy to tackle Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” for Kermit Unpigged, a covers record featuring Jimmy Buffett, Linda Ronstadt, and Mr. Mirth himself, Don Henley. Ozzy handles most of the lead vocals, while Miss Piggy interjects with random shouts of “Uh huh!” and “That’s beautiful!” like she’s Diddy on a Notorious B.I.G. song. To make the whole thing that much more surreal, Piggy even adds an odd, quasi-orgasmic “Oh, Ozzy, yes! Yes! Yes!”