Bill Ward (musician)

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Bill Ward
Ward in 1970
Ward in 1970
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Thomas Ward
Born (1948-05-05) 5 May 1948 (age 75)[1]
Birmingham, England
Years active
  • 1966–1984
  • 1989–present
Formerly of

William Thomas Ward (born 5 May 1948[1]) is an English musician. He was a co-founder and the original drummer for the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Ward helped found Black Sabbath in 1968 alongside bandmates Ozzy Osbourne (lead singer), Tony Iommi (guitarist) and Geezer Butler (bass).


Early years and Black Sabbath[edit]

Bill started to play drums as a child, listening to the big bands of the 1940s; his early major influences were Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson.[2] Later he was influenced by drummers such as Larrie Londin, Bernard Purdie, Joe Morello, Keef Hartley, Hughie Flint, John Bonham, Ringo Starr, Jim Capaldi and Clive Bunker.[3] In the mid-1960s Ward sang and played drums in a band called the Rest, before he[4] and guitarist Tony Iommi played together in a band called Mythology,[5] and upon that band's dissolution joined vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler, who had previously played together in a band called Rare Breed.[6] The new band called themselves Earth, but were soon renamed Black Sabbath.

Ward's drug and alcohol use increased throughout Black Sabbath's heyday. By the late 1970s he was drinking during gigs, something he had never done before.[4] He also began experiencing panic attacks.[4] Ward has said he cannot remember the recording of the 1980 album Heaven and Hell due to his alcohol abuse.[7] According to Black Sabbath bandmate Iommi, Ward disappeared on 21 August 1980, without saying goodbye, other than a telephone call to then-Black Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio informing him "I'm off then, Ron."[8] He then briefly played in a band called Max Havoc.[5] He sat out one album (1981's Mob Rules) before returning to Black Sabbath for 1983's Born Again album. Ward once again left for health reasons before the band toured in support of Born Again. He again rejoined Black Sabbath in 1984 to record new material with David Donato but after several demo tapes, he once again left Sabbath.[9]


Ward with Black Sabbath in 1973

According to Tony Iommi, he and the band would often set Ward's beard on fire and perform other harmful pranks on him. On one occasion, Ward even received third-degree burns.[4][10] In an interview with Guitar World, Iommi described it as follows:

Bill and I were in the studio rehearsing one day and out of the blue I asked him, "May I set you on fire, Bill?" And he said, "Well, not now, not now." And then I forgot about it. Later on when the day ended, he said to me, "Well, I'm going home now; you still want to set me on fire or what?" And I said, "Sure." So I took a small can of lighter fluid and sprayed it on him, lit a match, and whoomph. He was wearing these polyester pants so they burned really quickly and he was on the floor screaming and crying. I could not help him because I was so busy laughing. It actually turned out to be quite serious. I felt really bad for him. He was sent to the hospital. Later on, his mother called me on the phone and said, "You barmy bastard, it's about time you grew up. Our Bill is going to have his leg off." But things like that always happened to Bill.

Iommi claims that Ward almost died after a prank-gone-wrong during recording of Vol. 4 in 1972.[4] The band were renting a Bel Air mansion belonging to John DuPont of the DuPont chemical company. The band found several spray cans of gold DuPont paint in a room of the house; finding Ward naked and unconscious after a night of heavy drinking, they thought it would be funny to cover the drummer from head to toe in gold paint.[4] Ward soon became violently ill and had a seizure and an ambulance had to be called. The paint had blocked all of Ward's pores, which his bandmates were subsequently informed can be fatal.[4]

Solo career[edit]

After a few years in hiatus, Ward decided to return to playing music in the late 1980s. In 1989 he went to work on a solo album, which featured a huge array of guest musicians, including former Black Sabbath bandmate Ozzy Osbourne and his guitarist, Zakk Wylde. Released in January 1990, Ward One: Along the Way showcased Ward's versatility in musical tastes and abilities; he even sang vocals on some of the songs. It would be seven years before he released his second solo album, When the Bough Breaks, in 1997.

In 2002 he released the song "Straws" as a single for charity. The song would reappear on his 2015 album Accountable Beasts.

Later career[edit]

Ward onstage with Black Sabbath in Stuttgart, Germany in 1999

Before the full Black Sabbath reunion, Ward and the original Sabbath had reunited twice for short sets, first for Live Aid in 1985 and then at a Costa Mesa, California Ozzy Osbourne show on 15 November 1992. Sabbath, with Judas Priest singer Rob Halford replacing Ronnie James Dio who had recently left the band, opened the show for Osbourne. The Ozzy Osbourne band (Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Mike Inez, Randy Castillo and John Sinclair) then did a full set before Osbourne was reunited with Iommi, Butler and Ward for four numbers.

Ward made a brief return to the band for a South American tour in 1994 with Tony Martin fronting, before finally rejoining the band for the two shows at the Birmingham NEC, England on 4 and 5 December 1997, which made up the Reunion album. When what was billed as the original line-up reunited for the Ozzfest tour in 1997, Mike Bordin played drums.

Ward was forced to skip all but the last two Black Sabbath appearances in 1998 while he recovered from a heart attack suffered during the tour rehearsals that May. As the band rehearsed, Ward stopped and asked if he could lie down for a spell. He then asked for his assistant and informed the band that his arm had gone numb. Iommi and Butler then left for a short time, not knowing the severity of Ward's condition. Outside, they saw an ambulance pass but weren't aware what was happening. Upon returning to the rehearsal space a short time later, a frantic Osbourne informed them "Bill has had a heart attack! Bill has had a heart attack!"[4] As was the case in 1980, he was replaced at short notice by Vinny Appice, although this time it was always intended to be a temporary absence for Ward, health permitting.

In 2000, Ward participated in a partial Black Sabbath reunion of sorts, joining Iommi and Osbourne to record the track "Who's Fooling Who" for Iommi's first solo album.

Since mid-2002, Ward has done a monthly internet-only radio show named Rock 50 on radio station WPMD from Cerritos College in California. Ward plays a variety of metal, hard rock, and some classic rock.[11]

Brief reunion with Black Sabbath[edit]

In October 2006, news leaked that Ward would be reuniting with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ronnie James Dio for a tour though under the moniker Heaven & Hell. However, Ward later decided not to participate in the tour or continue participation in the band because of musical differences with "a couple of the other bandmembers" and a reported concern about extended touring.[12][13] His spot in the band was filled by Vinny Appice.

On 11 November 2011, Iommi, Butler, Osbourne, and Ward announced that they were reuniting to record a new album with producer Rick Rubin and to start touring in 2012.[14] In February 2012, however, Ward left before work commenced on 13, the first studio recording to include original band members Iommi, Osbourne and Butler since the live album Reunion (1998), which contained two new studio tracks. Ward said that he had failed to reach an agreement regarding his contract.[15][16][17][18] However, he did later admit that his weight would have been an issue in a 2013 tour.[19] Osbourne also suggested in an open letter that Ward's decision not to take part was down to his health. In April 2015, Ward criticised Osbourne on his Facebook fan page via a letter to his and the band's fans.[20] This prompted a rebuttal from Osbourne on his Facebook page:[21]

Bill, stop this smokescreen about an "unsignable contract" and let's be honest. Deep down inside you knew you weren't capable of doing the album and a 16-month tour. Unfortunately for you, our instincts were correct as you were in hospital several times during 2013. Your last hospitalization was for a shoulder surgery that you now say you've only just recovered from. This would have meant that our world tour would have been canceled. So how is all of this my fault? Stop playing the victim and be honest with yourself and our fans.[21]

Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk filled in for Ward for 13.

Ward's surgery on his shoulder prevented him from playing drums again until May 2014,[22] delaying his third studio album Accountable Beasts.[23] He had also expressed a desire to tour behind the album once it is released, provided that sales were acceptable.[24]

Ward reunited with Sabbath members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler to accept the "Lifetime Achievement" award at the May 2015 Ivor Novello Awards.[25]

In 2016, Ward debuted with a new band called "Day of Errors", which played its first gig in June that year at Gaslamp in Long Beach, California and also features Joe Amodea on guitar/vocals and Kill Devil Hill singer Jason "Dewey" Bragg on vocals.

Ward was due to play a string of dates with his new band in December 2017 but had to cancel these when he was hospitalised with heart problems in November.[26]

He once again reunited with Iommi and Butler in Los Angeles in May 2019, as Black Sabbath were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy. Though Sabbath did not perform, Rival Sons performed a set of their songs for the occasion.[27] A short time later, Osbourne said in an interview that he wants to play one last show with the band's original line-up.[28] Ward announced three weeks later on his Instagram that he loved all three of his former Black Sabbath bandmates very much and was open-minded to playing a final show with them.[29] The last show Black Sabbath played was on 4 February 2017 in their native Birmingham, with Tommy Clufetos on drums instead of Ward.[30] He also says, "I would love to do a studio album with Sabbath, with all the original members. I'm just saying that I'm just floating that out there – I haven't talked to anybody about that or anything else."[31]

Personal life[edit]

Ward has two sons, Nigel and Aron, and one daughter, Emily.

According to his Black Sabbath bandmates Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne, Ward has dramatically changed his lifestyle since Black Sabbath's 1970s and early 80s heyday. Iommi says he stopped smoking, gave up alcohol, became a vegan, and does not use drugs of any kind.[4] Osbourne says that Ward has been sober for approximately 30 years.[32] However, more recently Osbourne has criticised Ward's health, describing him in 2013 as "incredibly overweight" and suggesting that he would have been unable to drum for Black Sabbath had he stayed in the band following their 2011 reunion, given his physical condition, although Ward himself has insisted his health has not affected his ability to play the drums.[33]

Ward later admitted he underwent gastrointestinal surgery in 2013, and is still recovering. "Currently my health is not bad but it's certainly not good enough to play in any band, never mind Black Sabbath."[34] By 2021, he admitted that he was no longer able to play his drum parts for Black Sabbath, but was open to recording another studio album with them.[31]

Ward stated in an interview he "lost a friend" in Osbourne after his statements about Ward's health in 2012, but maintained contact with Butler and Iommi.[34] However, they appear to have reconciled since then, as Osbourne named Ward as one of the people that kept in touch with him during his health problems in 2019.[35]

In 2016, Ward expressed his distaste for religion saying that he grew up in a "heathen" family and did not believe in a "fire and brimstone god [...] bloody rubbish!" He did however enjoy singing in Sunday church choirs growing up.[36]


Drumming website Totaldrumsets has listed Ward among "The 100 Most Influential Drummers Ever!" and has defined him "the mastermind behind the unholy birth of heavy metal drumming".[37]

In 2016, he was ranked 42nd in Rolling Stone's list 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.[38]


In the early years of Black Sabbath, Ward used Ludwig and Slingerland drum kits, as well as Zyn and Zildjian cymbals and Speedking drum pedals.[39] Currently, he uses Tama drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth drumsticks, and Gibraltar hardware.[40]


with Black Sabbath[edit]

with Ozzy Osbourne[edit]

with Tony Iommi[edit]


with Bill Ward Band[edit]

  • Arrows (song dedicated to the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting) (2019)
  • Once This Was A Road (2019)
  • Powder on the Moon (2020)
  • Bombers "The Remake" (a remake of "Bombers Can Open Bomb Bays"), featuring drummer Walter Earl (2020)
  • Mon Dieu (2022)[41]

with Day of Errors[edit]

  • Blaspheming at Creation (2017) - Day of Errors/Blaspheming at Creation
  • Dark (2019)
  • Ghost Train (2019)

with The Mezmerist[edit]

  • The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty (demo) (1983)




  1. ^ a b "The Official Bill Ward Site". Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Never say Die!: Bill Ward interview". Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  3. ^ "Bill Ward - Official site". Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306819551.
  5. ^ a b "AllMusic Bill Ward biography". Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  6. ^ "AllMusic Geezer Butler biography". Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  7. ^ "Bill Ward: From Jazz to Black Sabbath". 16 February 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  8. ^ Hotten, Jon. "The Dio Years" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  9. ^ "BLACK SABBATH | Interviews | Rockdetector". 12 June 2007. Archived from the original on 12 June 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  10. ^ "Tony Iommi Burning Bill". VH1 Classic. Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  11. ^ "Bill Ward—Rock 50". Retrieved 7 November 2009.
  12. ^ "Bill Ward Says 'Bad Contract' And 'Controversy' With Another Bandmember Led To His Exit From Heaven & Hell -". 28 August 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2016.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Russell, Tom (20 February 2010). "Ward on Quitting Heaven & Hell: I Was Uncomfortable With Some Things Surrounding The Project". Blabbermouth. Archived from the original on 22 February 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2010.
  14. ^ "Veteran rockers Black Sabbath announce reunion". BBC News. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  15. ^ "Bill Ward Says He May Be Forced To Sit Out Black Sabbath Reunion -". Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  16. ^ "Roadrunner Records - home of The Amity Affliction, The Devil Wears Prada, Slipknot, KING 810 and all the best in rock, hard rock, and metal - Roadrunner Records". Roadrunner Records. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  17. ^ "Black Sabbath: 'We Have No Choice But To Continue Recording Without Bill Ward'". 3 February 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  18. ^ "Black Sabbath: New Album Title Announced; Recording Drummer Revealed". 12 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  19. ^ Grow, Kory (17 April 2015). "Black Sabbath's Bill Ward: 'I Don't Know If I'm a Member'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 February 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  20. ^ "Bill Ward - Dear Friends, I hope you’re well and in good..." Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  21. ^ a b "Ozzy Osbourne - I never wanted to discuss this in a public..." 16 April 2015. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Bill Ward Interview Preview – Black Sabbath Online". 10 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  23. ^ Fanelli, Damian. "Estranged Black Sabbath Drummer Bill Ward Announces New Solo Album, 'Accountable Beasts'". Revolver. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  24. ^ "Bill Ward is Experiencing an 'Absence of Corners': The Exclusive Interview". Groovey. Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  25. ^ "Bill Ward: 'Sharon Osbourne Definitely Dislikes Me, And She Has for a Long, Long Time' -". 20 August 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2016.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Polcaro, Rafael (20 November 2017). "Original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward is hospitalized due heart problems". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Black Sabbath reunite with Bill Ward at Grammy event | Louder". 13 May 2019. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  28. ^ Lifton, Dave (25 May 2019). "Ozzy Osbourne Wants One Last Black Sabbath Show With Bill Ward". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  29. ^ Trapp, Philip (10 July 2019). "Black Sabbath's Bill Ward 'Open-Minded' About Reuniting With Band". Loudwire. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  30. ^ "BLACK SABBATH Pulling Out Deep Cuts For Farewell Tour". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. 18 January 2016.
  31. ^ a b "Bill Ward would love to do a new album with Black Sabbath". Chaospin. 16 March 2021. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  32. ^ Osbourne, Ozzy (2011). I Am Ozzy. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446569903.
  33. ^ "Ozzy Osbourne Talks Bill Ward's Sabbath Absence: 'He's Incredibly Overweight'". Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  34. ^ a b Michaels, Sean. "Ozzy Osbourne urges estranged Black Sabbath member to rejoin band". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  35. ^ "Ozzy Names Rockstars Who Called Him During Health Struggles: 'You Find Out Who Cares' | Music News @". 24 February 2020. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  36. ^ BANGERTV - All Metal. "BLACK SABBATH drummer Bill Ward interviewed in 2010 about the band's Satanic image | Raw & Uncut". YouTube. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  37. ^ "The 100 Most Influential Drummers Ever!". Archived from the original on 11 December 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  38. ^ "100 Greates Drummers of All Time". Rolling Stone Magazine. 31 March 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  39. ^ "Ex Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward to sell studio-used gear". Classic Rock. 5 May 1948. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  40. ^ "Bill Ward Drum Equipment, CDs, DVDs & Books". 5 May 1948. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  41. ^ "Mon Dieu : Posted on Dec.21, 2022 under Bill Ward". Retrieved 20 May 2023.

External links[edit]