"Black Sabbath" is a song by the British heavy metal band of the same name, written in 1969 and released on their self-titled 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.
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. The main riff is constructed with a harmonic progression including a diminished fifth / augmented fourth. This particular interval is often known as diabolus in musica, for it has musical qualities which are often used to suggest Satanic connotations in Western music. The song "Black Sabbath" was one of the earliest examples in heavy metal to make use of this interval, and since then, the genre has made extensive use of diabolus in musica.
The riff was created when bassist Geezer Butler began playing a fragment from the Gustav Holst piece 'Mars'. Inspired, guitarist Tony Iommi returned the next day with the famously dark tritone.
"Black Sabbath" has been covered by the following bands:
- Flower Travellin' Band in 1970, on their album Anywhere.
- The Throwaways in 1993, on their album Postmadonna Primadonna.
- Type O Negative in 1994, for the Black Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black.
- Vader in 1994, on their albums Sothis and Future of the Past.
- LA Guns in 1996, on their album American Hardcore (bonus track on Japan release).
- Iced Earth in 2002, on their album Tribute to the Gods.
- Van Helsing's Curse in 2004, on their album Oculus Infernum.
- Gonga in 2014, with trip hop musician Beth Gibbons
- Ice-T has sampled "Black Sabbath" twice: on 1989's "Shut Up, Be Happy" from the album The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say and 1991's "Midnight" from the album O.G. Original Gangster.
- Breakcore artist Venetian Snares heavily sampled the vocals and guitar on his dubstep EP Sabbath Dubs.