Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi diagnosed with cancer; work on reunion album continues

Guitarist Tony Iommi, currently at work on a reunion project with Black Sabbath, has cancer. The band issued a statement on its Facebook page confirming a diagnosis of early-stage lymphoma for the 63-year-old metal legend, the only member to have appeared in all of Black Sabbath’s many incarnations since its founding in 1969.

Iommi recently reunited with singer Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward in hopes of producing the initial Black Sabbath lineup’s first new studio album since 1978’s Never Say Die.

“With the news that Tony Iommi has been diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma, his bandmates would like everyone to send positive vibes to the guitarist at this time,” the Black Sabbath release says. “Iommi is currently working with his doctors to establish the best treatment plan. The Iron Man of Rock & Roll remains upbeat and determined to make a full and successful recovery.”

The sobering news comes as Black Sabbath was writing and recording in Los Angeles with producer Rick Rubin. Band members say they will now return to the UK, where work will resume with Iommi. There was no word on how Iommi’s health issues might impact Black Sabbath pending world tour, which included a headlining slot at Europe’s Download Festival, among other stops.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, a network of lymph nodes connected by blood vessels that drain waste products and strain cancerous cells from the body.

Here’s a look back at previous thoughts on Black Sabbath, and related solo projects. Click though the title for complete reviews …

BLACK SABBATH – SABOTAGE (1975): The end of Sabotage also begins the fade out of the Ozzy era of the band. Though the two records that followed both have their moments, it wasn’t until 1980 and the entrance of Dio that the band put out another truly amazing record with a sound so altered that, at times, it would be hard to identify the music as Sabbath. There’s also a very powerful argument to be made for that record as the band’s best, but I’ll save that one for another time. Sabotage isn’t likely to overtake the groundbreaking debut record or the hit-filled Paranoid as Sabbath’s best work in most people’s minds, and I understand that. But the next time you’re looking for a Sabbath fix, dig a little deeper and give it a listen, especially if you haven’t heard it in a while. It might just be a much better record than you remember. — Fred Phillips

BLACK SABBATH – THE DIO YEARS (2007): While I was aware of the Ronnie James Dio-fronted version of the band, I just never got around to checking them out. I moved on from being a metal die-hard for a while to other things, but in recent years have been slowly re-integrating a lot of older metal material. What we’ve got here is five tracks from Heaven and Hell, four from Mob Rules, three from Dehumanizer, one from Live Evil, and three brand-new songs that Dio wrote. So, finally, after all this time, the Dio-era Sabbath is finding a home in my collection. — Tom Johnson

OZZY OSBOURNE – BLIZZARD OF OZZ/ DIARY OF A MADMAN (1980/81): In my opinion, Diary of a Madman is Ozzy’s finest hour outside of Black Sabbath. While his debut had a few duds — “No Bone Movies” comes immediately to mind, and though it may seem like sacrilege to some fans, I’ve never liked “Revelation (Mother Earth),” either — Diary is a far more consistent record from beginning to end, and there’s not a single track that I skip every listen. 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz, of course, features some of Ozzy’s best-known songs, including “I Don’t Know,” “Mr. Crowley” and perhaps his most recognizable solo hit, “Crazy Train.” It also features one of my personal favorite guitar instrumentals, Randy Rhoads’ neo-classical jaunt, “Dee.” — Fred Phillips

WHOCARES, FEATURING TONY IOMMI AND IAN GILLAN – OUT OF MY MIND (2011): For all the mediocre music he shelled out under the Black Sabbath name following the departure of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi is making amends later in life. His reunion of the Dio-era Sabbath lineup under the name Heaven and Hell a few years ago produced the best Black Sabbath record (and it was Sabbath, no matter what the cover said) since the same lineup reunited in 1992 for Dehumanizer. With WhoCares, he’s back together with Ian Gillan, who fronted Sabbath briefly after Dio left, for a great charity record to benefit the rebuilding of a music school in Armenia that was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1988. — Fred Phillips

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