Randy Rhoads: Guitar God Who Saved Ozzy Osbourne's Career But Died At 25

By | March 17, 2021

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British musician Ozzy Osbourne and American musician Randy Rhodes (1956 - 1982) perform at the Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois, January 24, 1982. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Randy Rhoads, the guitar prodigy on Ozzy Osbourne's early solo albums, rocked hard and died young. The bizarre airplane accident that took his life is without a doubt the most senseless of senseless rock 'n roll deaths. It's hard to imagine Osbourne doing so well -- he'd been kicked out of Black Sabbath, after all -- without a musical enabler like Rhodes. Like Eddie Van Halen, Rhoads helped change the course of guitar playing in he 1980s. He brought a classical flare to hard rock and hair metal that's been imitated but never replicated.

The thing that tends to be ignored in every story about Rhoads' life is how kind and gentle he was. His offstage life was a complete 180 of how he was onstage with a guitar in his hand. Rhoads lived anything but a "Crazy Train" lifestyle, which is why his death from a plane crash in 1982 was so shocking.

Randy Rhoads was born to play guitar

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Randy Rhoads was a southern California boy at heart. He grew up in Santa Monica with two siblings and a single mother. With no stereo at home, Rhoads started writing his own music on a classical guitar at the age of seven. He studied music theory with his mother and quickly started playing electric guitar, outplaying his teachers until he had no choice but to start a band.

Throughout high school Rhoads played with various cover groups made up of kids his age, but when 15 year old Rhoads saw Alice Cooper in 1971 everything clicked and he realized how to dress, how to look, and how to put together a rock group that could actually be a hit.

With Alice Cooper in mind, Rhoads put together the band that became Quiet Riot, although they were initially called "Little Women." The group was a local hit, but even though they signed a deal with CBS/Sony their first two albums were only released in Japan. As more and more friction entered the picture, 23 year old Rhoads was offered a chance to audition for Ozzy Osbourne.