My name is Zack Smith, I am a music studies major at William Paterson University. I graduated from Pequannock Township High School in 2014, and participated in the jazz band and chamber choir during my four years as a high school student. I have been playing guitar since the age of 11 and have picked up other instruments along the way, including bass, drums, & piano. My favorite genres of music include Blues, Rock & Roll, & Heavy Metal.
As a heavy metal enthusiast, my biggest musical influence is Black Sabbath. I consider Black Sabbath to be my biggest influence because they are the only band who really created a genre of music. Other bands may have contributed in creating other genres, but before that band, there was always someone else who inspired that band. With Black Sabbath, they were truly the first.
Black Sabbath formed in Birmingham, England in 1968. Vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward came together and created a sound that had never been heard before. Their music was dangerous, spine chilling, and evil. During a time where it seemed everyone was singing about flower power and peace, Black Sabbath chose to focus their musical writing on the darker things in life. How did their sound come to be? Some say it is from a severe accident guitarist Tony Iommi experienced at the age of 17.
Iommi was working his job at a sheet metal factory, and went home for his lunch break. He told his mom he wasn’t going back after lunch, as he was planning on quitting that day. His mother told him he better go back and finish the job, so he did. He arrived back at the factory after his break, and was ordered to work with a machine he had never operated before. He began using the machine and an enormous blade came down on his hand, severing the tips of his middle and ring finger. He immediately thought his guitar playing days were over. A week after his accident, Iommi’s boss came to his house with a Django Reinhardt record, explaining that he only played with two fingers. His ring finger and pinky became paralyzed from a fire injury. This information inspired Iommi to pick up the guitar again.
Iommi tuned his guitar down from the key of E, to the key of C#, to lighten the tension on the strings so that his fingers would not feel any discomfort. He made his own fake fingertips by melting glass into the shapes of finger tips and adding strips of leather to grip the strings. Once comfortable with his new playing style, he formed Black Sabbath. They had the idea to focus their music on the dark side of life, with songs about war, death, politics, religion, and hypocrisy. They got the idea to play scary music after they realized it was ironic that people pay money to go see scary movies and be frightened. So they decided to play scary music. These are the factors that created the sound that is now known as heavy metal.
Tony Iommi remains one of the most influential metal guitarists of all time. It is very common for many metal musicians drop tune their guitars nowadays, and it all started from Tony Iommi. What amazes me is how an entire genre of music was created by this accident. Had the accident never happened, or had the accident been much worse, we would not have heavy metal as we know it today. It would sound very different, or may not even exist at all. Black Sabbath’s legacy is a symbol of Iommi’s determination and strength, by overcoming his disability, and creating one of the most popular genres of music of all time. Iommi’s ability to overcome such a tragic incident inspired many, including myself, to never give up no matter what. So thank you Tony Iommi. Thank you Black Sabbath. Thank you for heavy metal.
-Zack Smith, Music Studies
WPU Class of ’18