Report: BLACK SABBATH's 'War Pigs' Dissected

March 19, 2009, 14 years ago

news black sabbath rarities takes an indepth look at the BLACK SABBATH classic 'War Pigs'.

Rolling Stone’s David Fricke asked Ozzy Osbourne in 2002: “Were you guys interested in black magic? Even a little bit?”

Ozzy Osbourne: “We couldn’t conjure up a fart. We’d get invitations to play witches’ conventions and Black Masses in Highgate Cemetery. I honestly thought it was a joke. We were the last hippie band – we were into peace.”

Black Sabbath has been called many things – satanic, dark, evil, sick and twisted. However, ‘peace-loving’ is probably not often used to describe Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. Their fierce reputation as the world’s first heavy metal band often caused misrepresentation when it came to the true meaning of their song lyrics. 'War Pigs', from the explosive 1970 album Paranoid, was no exception.

Focused on words throughout the song like “witches at black masses” and “Satan laughing spreads his wings”, War Pigs was often thought to represent the band’s so-called fascination with death and destruction.

“I'll never forget a confrontation with my Dad over this song. He was a devout Jehovahs Witness. I was listening to this album in my room one day and all he heard from the other end of the house was "just like witches at black masses". He barreled into the room, grabbed the vinyl off the turntable, yelled about demons and witches and Black Sabbath and smashed my new record on the table. I left home a week after and never went back.” Thomas, Songfacts.

Instead of black magic and satanic ritual, the song is actually about the Vietnam War and consequently, judgment day for war-hungry politicians. This is evident in lyrics “Generals gathered in their masses. Just like witches at black masses. Evil minds that plot destruction. Sorcerers 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”

And then, “Day of judgement, God is calling. On their knees the war pig's crawling. Begging mercy for their sins”.

50 Top Political Songs, “The lead track to the album (Paranoid) is the crushing 'War Pigs', an anti-war anthem that elegizes the pointless deaths of millions of soldiers as the politicians responsible profit off of their sacrifice. Interestingly enough, when the band first wrote the song it was called 'Walpurgis' and was a more traditional occultist song about the Sabbath of the witches. But with the Vietnam War showing the whole world exactly how horrifying war could be every night on TV, Ozzy pushed the band into heretofore-unexplored political territory, and created a timeless classic in the process.”

Despite the poignant song lyrics, critics were hostile towards Black Sabbath as the band’s movement towards bringing war, death and the devil to the forefront of popular culture, signified the end of the flowery, peace-loving hippie era. In the book ‘The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal’, author Daniel Buhszpan recalls that Ozzy felt they (Black Sabbath) should make music that reflected the grim reality of their surroundings.

“Here’s hoping that Ozzy’s wife and manager, Sharon, realizes that in the age of Osama bin Laden and Britney Spears, humanity needs true Sabbath more than ever,” says Buhszpan.

Read more of the report here.

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