Lee Kerslake, who drummed for Ozzy Osbourne, died Saturday at age 73 following a protracted battle with prostate cancer.
In addition to playing with the Black Sabbath frontman, Kerslake was an early drummer with the progressive hard rock group Uriah Heep and was featured on multiple classic albums.
The drummer’s Uriah Heep bandmate Ken Hensley announced his death in a statement shared to Louder.
Drum legend: Lee Kerslake, who drummed for Uriah Heep and was featured on Ozz Osbourne’s early ’80s classics, died Saturday at 73 after a protracted battle with prostate cancer; shown near Paris in 1973
‘It’s with the heaviest of hearts that I share with you that Lee Kerslake, my friend of 55 years and the best drummer I ever played with, lost his battle with cancer at 03:30 this morning. He died peacefully, praise The Lord, but he will be terribly missed.’
Kerslake’s greatest commercial success came as the drummer for Osbourne in 1980 and ’81, when he recorded the classic albums Blizzard Of Ozz, which featured the hit Crazy Train, and Diary Of A Madman.
The drummer’s death came a day before the 40th anniversary of Blizzard Of Ozz, which was released on September 20, 1980.
Prior to working with Osbourne’s solo group, he played drums for Uriah Heep from 1971–1979, and he rejoined in 1981 and stayed with the band until 2007.
Iconic music: Kerslake’s greatest commercial success came as the drummer for Osbourne in 1980 and ’81, when he recorded the classic albums Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman; Kerslake (second left) pictured with Osbourne (second right) in 1980
Silenced: Kerslake was featured on the hit single Crazy Train on Blizzard Of Ozz. Despite drumming on the follow-up Diary Of A Madman, he wouldn’t be credited on the LP
Kerslake got his start on the drums at the age of 11, and his first professional gig was with the UK band Gods.
After joining Uriah Heep in 1971, he recorded the classic 1972 LP Demons And Wizards with the group, which fused a progressive rock sound with a hard rock edge.
After leaving the group due to a songwriting disagreement in 1978, he joined up with Ozzy Osbourne in the early 1980s, after the future reality TV star was fired from Black Sabbath due to his drug abuse.
‘We got Lee Kerslake literally just before we went in the studio, and it was just, like, four guys having a blast with each other,’ Osbourne told Rolling Stone while speaking about Blizzard Of Ozz’s upcoming anniversary.
‘We were all getting f**ked up on coke and booze, though Randy wasn’t. Randy never did much drugs. He smoked cigarettes; he didn’t drink much.’
Kerslake began drumming at 11 and first joined the UK band gods. He joined progressive hard rock group Uriah Heep in 1971, before leaving in 1978. He later rejoined from 1981–2007; shown in 1980
Erased: Kerslake’s drum tracks were erased from Blizzard Of Ozz in a 2002 reissue, which Osbourne blamed on his wife Sharon. The original tracks were restored for the 30th anniversary release; Osbourne shown in 2018 in LA
Despite drumming on Diary Of A Madman, Kerslake’s name was erased from the album and replaced by subsequent drummer Tommy Aldridge, even though Aldrige admitted it was Kerslake’s drumming on the album.
By 1986, Kerslake and Osbourne bassist Bob Daisley had sued the singer over unpaid royalties from Blizzard Of Ozz.
Osbourne later had the drum and bass parts on the album rerecorded for a 2002 reissue with his current bass player and drummer, which he later blamed on his wife Sharon Osbourne.
However, Kerslake and Daisley’s original parts were restored for the album’s 30th anniversary reissue.
Last request: In 2018, Kerslake requested Osbourne send him platinum records for his contributions after being given eight months to live. Osbourne sent them in January 2019; Kerslake (second to left) with Uriah Heep in 1973
In 2018, Kerslake requested that Osbourne send him platinum records for his contributions after announcing he had only eight months to live.
‘I’ve written to Sharon and Ozzy recently, a personal letter basically asking them to kindly send me platinum album certifications for Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman, to hang on my wall before I die,’ Kerslake told The Metal Voice at the time. ‘It’s on my bucket list. I hope they will come to terms with it and say yes. I went belly-up bankrupt when I lost the case to Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne in the courts.
‘It costs me hundreds of thousands and I had to sell the house, and then started to get ill. … But a platinum certification on my wall for these albums would be fantastic. … It would say I helped create those albums.’
Osbourne relented and sent him the platinum album in January of last year.
Kerslake is survived by his wife Sue.