Black Sabbath (song)

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"Black Sabbath"
Song by Black Sabbath from the album Black Sabbath

13 February 1970 (1970-02-13) (UK)
1 June 1970 (USA)

2000, 2015
Recorded July 1969 (demo version)
November 1969 (studio version)
Genre Heavy metal, doom metal
Length 6:16
Label Vertigo (UK)
Warner Bros. (USA)
Writer(s) Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward
Producer(s) Rodger Bain
Black Sabbath track listing
"Black Sabbath"
"The Wizard"
Audio sample
file info · help

"Black Sabbath" is a song by the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath, written in 1969 and released on their eponymous debut album. In 1970, it was released as a four-track 12" single, with "The Wizard" also on the A-side and "Evil Woman" and "Sleeping Village" on B-side, on the Philips Records label Vertigo.


According to the band, the song was inspired by an experience that Geezer Butler had related to Ozzy Osbourne. In the days of Earth, Geezer Butler painted his apartment matte black, placed several inverted crucifixes, and put many pictures of Satan on the walls. Osbourne gave Butler a book about witchcraft. He read the book and placed the book on a shelf beside his bed before going to sleep. When he woke up, he claims he saw a large black figure standing at the end of his bed. The figure disappeared and Butler went to get the book, and it was gone.[1]

A version of this song from Black Sabbath's first demo exists on the Ozzy Osbourne compilation album The Ozzman Cometh.[2] The song has an extra verse with additional vocals before the bridge.[3] The guitar and bass are tuned down one whole step, resulting in the key position of A being played on the fretboard, but having the pitch as G (octave - E flat) to the listener.

It's one of the band's most frequently performed tracks, being featured on every single tour of their career.


AllMusic's Steve Huey said the song is an example wherein Black Sabbath appropriated the blue note from the standard pentatonic blues scale and developed a heavy metal riff.[4] The main riff is an inversion of a tritone, constructed with a harmonic progression including a diminished fifth / augmented fourth.[5] This particular interval is often known as diabolus in musica,[6] for it has musical qualities which are often used to suggest Satanic connotations in Western music.[6][7][8] The song "Black Sabbath" was one of the earliest examples in heavy metal to make use of this interval,[6] and since then, the genre has made extensive use of diabolus in musica.[6][9]

The riff was created when bassist Geezer Butler began playing a fragment of "Mars" from Gustav Holst's The Planets suite. Inspired, guitarist Tony Iommi returned the next day with the famously dark tritone.[10]

The main riff of "Black Sabbath" is one of the most famous examples of harmonic progressions with the tritone G-C.[citation needed]

Music video[edit]

A music video was made for the song. The video was filmed in a studio with a village on the foreground.

Cover versions[edit]

"Black Sabbath" has been covered by the following bands:



  1. ^ Osbourne, Ozzy (2010). I Am Ozzy. 
  2. ^ "Overview The Ozzman Cometh". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Black Sabbath". Black Sabbath Online. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Huey, Steve. "Black Sabbath review". Allmusic. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Chesna, James (26 February 2010). "'Sleeping (In the Fire)': Listening Room fearless leader faces down fear". WJRT-TV/DT. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d Marshall, Wolf. "Power Lord—Climbing Chords, Evil Tritones, Giant Callouses". Guitar Legends, April 1997, p. 2
  7. ^ Cooke Deryck, The Language of Music, chapter 2 "The Elements of Musical Expression- the Augmented Fourth". Oxford University Press, Oxford New-York, 1959, Reimpression 2001, p. 84.
  8. ^ Sadie, Stanley (1980). "Tritone" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1st ed.). MacMillan, pp.154-155 ISBN 0-333-23111-2.
  9. ^ Dunn, Sam (2005). "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey". Warner Home Video (2006).
  10. ^ Classic Albums: Black Sabbath - Paranoid (2010)
  11. ^ "Overview Anywhere". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 August 2009. 
  12. ^ "Overview Nativity in Black". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  13. ^ "Overview Sothis". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  14. ^ "Overview Future of the Past". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  15. ^ "Overview Tribute to the Gods". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  16. ^ "Overview Oculus Infernum". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  17. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (April 24, 2014). "Portishead's Beth Gibbons Covers Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath" With Metal Band Gonga". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Whosampledwho". Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  19. ^ "Whosampledwho". Retrieved 15 April 2015. 

External links[edit]