Now, I will grant you, in recent years, the man has not exactly been easy to understand when he speaks, but this hasn't always been the case, and certainly when he sings, the words come through, crystal clear.
I don't know if Ozzy is a great songwriter. Heck, I don't know if he can even write competent lyrics without some serious assistance. By all accounts, Geezer Butler wrote the majority of the lyrics for Black Sabbath, and Bob Daisley did the same on Ozzy's debut solo album, The Blizzard of Ozz (guess Ozzy likes bass playing lyricists...).
But, Ozzy certainly contributed to the lyrics on most songs, and he sang them with the conviction of someone who wrote them, so I have to believe his influence accounted for more than just a 'alright now' here and a 'oh yeah' there.
Regardless, whether it's because most people attribute lyrics to the performer singing them (sorry, Kris Kristopherson) or it's because of Ozzy's distinctive, albeit one-dimensional, voice, almost every song originally sung by Ozzy Osbourne is thought of as an Ozzy song (which is unfortunate, because for the Black Sabbath songs, at least, they really are Toni Iommi /Geezer Butler songs).
Ozzy's been singing these songs since around 1970, and while many of the albums on which Ozzy lends his vocal stylings have gone platinum/multi-platinum, and many people can sing along with the lyrics when the songs are played on the radio ('Is he live or dead...'), I have to wonder how many people have taken the time to stop and listen to the words being sung, and more importantly, understand them. If they did, I really don't think that Ozzy would have been given the moniker, 'Prince of Darkness', since the darker overtones of the songs he sings are almost universally meant as a warning against man's darker nature ('Tell me, people, am I going insane?...').
I mean, Ozzy is a Christian, for Christ's sake. Sure, he started out in a band named for the Boris Karloff flick, Black Sabbath, but that's just because their original name, Earth, was being used by another band and Iommi didn't want anyone to confuse the two. And, sure, the words, 'Lucifer' and 'Satan' are used in more than a few of the lyrics that Ozzy sings, but if one were to say, 'Satan is bad', I highly doubt you would immediately dub them a satanist. Why then, was as much done to Ozzy, despite the fact that he was singing, over and over again, 'Satan is bad' (through Diary of a Madman, after which, I think he embraced the hype, or because a parody of himself, as so many are prone to do eventually).
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
(I'm not usually a fan of the 'perfect' rhyme, but that shit is dope)
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerer of death's construction
In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
Poisoning their brainwashed minds, oh lord yeah!
Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that all to the poor
Time will tell them they are power blind
Making war just for fun
Treating people just like pawns in chess
Wait 'til their judgement day comes
Now in darkness, world stops turning
Ashes where the bodies burning
No more war pigs have the power
Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of judgement, God is calling
On their knees, the war pigs crawling
Begging mercies for their sins
Satan laughing, spreads his wings
OH LORD YEAH!
This entire song is about the evils of war, and the lyrics repeatedly state, war is bad, and those who promote war are minions of Satan and will be judged by God.
Shit...if I didn't know better, I'd half expect that someone was spewing Stryper lyrics all over the page.
The theme is repeated in nearly every Sabbath song on which Ozzy sang lead, so I won't bore you with listing the lyrics to all of them, but it is this verse from 'Crazy Train' where I think it all culminates and Ozzy really nails it:
I've listened to preachers
I've listened to fools
I've watched all the dropouts
Who make their own rules
One person conditioned to rule and control
The media sells it and you live the role
If this doesn't perfectly sum up every generation's, post-Baby Boomer, thoughts about the assholes who are running, and ruining our society, then maybe I'm on board the Crazy Train.
Ozzy was slipping some punk rock in his bombastic metal vocal odysseys while no one was paying attention (and no one still is), and he nailed the issues that have lead us to the point in history in which we currently find ourselves.
Is it the packaging? The drugs ('cause, ya know...that's not par for the course with rock stars that get way more critical and literary respect than Ozzy ever will)? The awesome knuckle tattoos?
I'm not entirely sure, myself, but while y'all are trying to figure out what went wrong, Ozzy was telling you about it 40 years ago. You just weren't listening.