1969's 'Black Sabbath' was lyrically inspired by an incident where bassist Geezer Butler had finished reading a book on black magic, then later awoke in the middle of the night to see a shadowy figure standing at the foot of his bed. The band, still named Earth at the time -- had been hunting for their true namesake while writing the lyrics for this song. Black Sabbath wasn't just the right name for the song -- it was the right name for the group.
'Children of the Grave'
Some of Black Sabbath's earlier songs, such as 'War Pigs' and 'Electric Funeral,' carried themes of war, revolution and peace. Off the 1971 album 'Master of Reality,' 'Children of the Grave' continued these themes, and became a hit amongst fans and other musicians alike.
'Fairies Wear Boots'
Though some sources claim the song was inspired by an incident where Osbourne and guitarist Tony Iommi were attacked by a gang of Skinheads after a concert in 1970, Iommi stated -- in liner notes to 'Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978)' -- that the song actually was inspired by an episode when Butler and Osbourne were smoking outside and saw fairies in the park.
The B-side to their first single, our seventh best Black Sabbath song was never played live until over two decades later in 1994, with Osbourne's harmonica part played by singer Tony Martin. Like with 'Fairies Wear Boots,' there's a bit of contention as to what 'The Wizard' was inspired by. Some say the song is an ode to the band's drug dealer. However, Butler claims it's named after Gandalf, the wizard character in J.R.R. Tolkien's novel 'The Lord of the Rings.'
'Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath'
Using lyrics to lash out at a nemesis is not unusual for musicians, but for Black Sabbath, this 1973 song was a way for them to address the entire world. Again, in the 'Black Box' liner notes, Butler says the lyric "'Bog blast all of you' was directed at the critics, the record business in general, the lawyers, the accountants, management and everyone who was trying to cash in on us. It was a backs-to-the-wall rant at everyone."
'Heaven and Hell'
Once the band ejected singer Ozzy Osbourne in '79 for liking the bottle a little too much, the group found their frontman with ex-'Rainbow' singer Ronnie James Dio. His first task? Pen the lyrics for 'Heaven and Hell' to match Iommi's tune. Dio, who fittingly helped popularize the "devil horns" hand gesture, says that the lyrics are about the basic duality of good and bad within every person.
No secrecy here: our fourth best Black Sabbath song is an homage to marijuana. Butler found inspiration in a packet of Irish cigarettes, which he claimed contained "the sweet leaf." Appropriately, the track, off their 1971 album 'Master of Reality,' starts with Iommi coughing (presumably after inhaling a lungful of bong smoke). 'Sweet Leaf' has been covered by numerous bands, including 'Thou,' 'Six Feet Under' and 'Stuck Mojo.'
Originally titled 'Walpurgis' and focusing on witches' sabbath, 'War Pigs' was changed into an anti-war song, as Black Sabbath was recording their 1970s album 'Paranoid,' for which 'War Pigs' is the lead track. Can't get enough of the song? For even those who aren't consummate metal-heads, the video game 'Guitar Hero 2' has a cover version for you to rock out.
Off the album 'Paranoid,' this 1970 song chronicles a time-traveling man who goes into the future and sees the Apocalypse. Upon his return back to present-day, though, he's turned into steel and is rendered mute, unable to communicate the impending doom. Consequently, the man who might be the hero becomes the villain: his attempts to warn his peers are brushed off, enraging him and causing him to wreak havoc on mankind, fulfilling the prophecy he saw.
Lyrically poised from the viewpoint of a paranoid person, 'Paranoid' was released as a single in July 1970 in the U.K. and made it as high as No. 2 on the Dutch Top 40. The song has become almost ubiquitous for heavy metal: even after Osbourne left the band in '79, he still sang the song as a solo artist.