Bernie Tormé, a guitarist who had played with Ozzy Osbourne and former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan’s band Gillan, died on Sunday at the age of 66. Mik Gaffney, Tormé drummer, confirmed the news on Facebook. Last month, his Twitter account posted that he was extremely ill and in intensive care with virulent double pneumonia.
“I am absolutely numb,” Gaffney wrote. “Got the news this morning that Bernie Tormé has died. It’s been a thrill playing drums for him for the past couple of years. He was loud, passionate, didn’t suffer fools but he was always a true gentleman. He produced one of my old band’s demos back in the Eighties, and told me off for using a china cymbal (“Not very rock n roll you,” he said) but I used it anyway. I will miss our arguments about Irish whiskey vs. Scottish whisky, I will miss him calling me a cunt, I will miss seeing that sparkle in his eye when he strapped his guitar on. RIP Bernie. We we all miss you.”
“What a sad day,” Osbourne wrote on Twitter. “We’ve lost another great musician. Bernie was a gentle soul with a heart of gold. He will be dearly missed. I send my sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans. Rest in Peace Bernie.”
“I cannot believe that Bernie Torme has passed,” added Osbourne’s wife and manager Sharon. “Bernie helped out Ozzy and I at a time of great need and we will never ever forget that. Love and condolences to his family.”
Tormé, who was born in Dublin on March 18th, 1952, was best known for joining Osbourne’s touring band after Randy Rhoads died in a freak plane accident in 1982. Although he was a member of the band for only a handful of shows before being replaced by Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis, Osbourne credited him with giving him the inspiration he needed to carry on in the wake of Rhoads’ death.
Outside of his stint with Osbourne, Tormé was the guitarist in Gillan from 1979 to 1981 until he was replaced by future Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, and also played in the prog-rock group Atomic Rooster alongside members of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Other groups he played with include metal band Desperado (with Dee Snider) and GMT (he was the T). Tormé also appeared on an album by hard-rock singer René Berg.
When news of Tormé’s illness hit the internet, Osbourne and his wife tweeted a message to the guitarist: “Dearest Bernie Torme, Sending you positive vibes and love, and all our prayers. Love Ozzy and Sharon.”
In between his gigs with other bands, the guitarist also fronted his own Bernie Tormé Band and another group called Tormé while issuing solo albums under his own name. His most recent, Shadowland, came out late last year. At the time of its release, he had said that his current solo tour of the U.K. would be his last; he called the tour “The Final Fling.”
Last year, he reunited with Osbourne when he attended one of the singer’s No More Tours 2 shows in Sweden. “I haven’t seen him for a fucking thousand years,” Osbourne told Rolling Stone. “Someone told me he was outside my dressing room. I went, ‘No.’ He said, ‘I’ll never forget the time I played with you, Ozzy. It was a lot of fun.’ I couldn’t remember what he looks like. It had been that long.”
“Ozzy talked about not selling any records these days and asked me if I did,” Tormé recalled of the encounter. “I said, ‘Ozzy, I never sold any records.’ We had a good laugh. It was a nice closure for me on a terrible time [replacing Rhoads].”