For the first seven years of the band’s career, the four-piece formed what was a truly invincible alliance that revolutionised heavy music and spawned countless imitators – most of whom failed to grasp the soulful power in Sabbath’s music. Throughout that time, Bill Ward’s contribution proved to be immense.
Along with his friend Bonzo, Cream’s Ginger Baker, the Experience’s Mitch Mitchell and The Who’s Keith Moon, Bill helped define the role of the drummer in a modern rock band – his approach based on the perfect mix of feel and technique.
When Sabbath’s collective spirit began to splinter in 1979, it fell to Bill to tell his best friend Ozzy that he was fired from the band. Sabbath recruited Ronnie James Dio as Ozzy went solo, but Bill remained forever regretful of the original band’s demise, initially leaving in late 1980. Tellingly, Sabbath replaced him with drummers that were far more prosaic and traditional in their approach.
In the four decades that have elapsed since then, Sabbath reunions have come and gone – the latest of which did not feature Bill for various reasons (some financial, some health related). Much has been made of the public spats that have followed but spend time in a room with all four original members of Sabbath, and what you experience is warmth and humour, rather than the rancour that stems from the politics around them.
Bill has continued to play with his own band, making music from his home in Seal Beach, California, and releasing it independently. As the pandemic hit, he has also begun posting a series of poems via his website.
Today, as we celebrate the man’s 73rd birthday, we bring you a selective run down of his greatest performances that he cut with Sabbath during his first stint with the band from 1968 through to 1980…