The story of Tony Iommi
In honour of the Riff Master birthday, I present to you the story of Tony Iommi, the lead guitarist, co-founder and songwriter of Black Sabbath or as I like to call him the ‘Iron Man’.
Iron Man is a person, as a worker or athlete, of great physical endurance who can be depended upon to perform a given task or job tirelessly.
If you’re already a bit familiar with the term or with the story of Tony Iommi, you might be interested in reading more about it or reading Tony Iommi’s book ‘𝐈𝐫𝐨𝐧 𝐌𝐚𝐧: 𝐌𝐲 𝐉𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐲 𝐓𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐇𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐖𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐁𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐒𝐚𝐛𝐛𝐚𝐭𝐡’.
Iommi was born in Birmingham, England. The only child of British-Italian parents Sylvia Maria Iommi and Anthony Frank Iommi.
At the age of 17, Iommi lost the tips of the middle and ring fingers of his right hand in an industrial accident on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory, an event which crucially impacted his playing style. Iommi described how he “was told ‘you’ll never play again’. It was just unbelievable. I sat in the hospital with my hand in this bag and I thought, that’s it – I’m finished. But eventually I thought ‘I’m not going to accept that. There must be a way I can play’.”
After the injury Iommi’s factory foreman played him a recording of famous jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, which encouraged him to continue as a musician. Inspired by Reinhardt’s two-fingered guitar playing, Iommi decided to try playing guitar again, though the injury made it quite painful to do so. Although it was an option, Iommi never seriously considered switching hands and learning to play right-handed. In an interview with Guitar World magazine, he was asked if he was “ever tempted to switch to right-handed playing.” Iommi responded:
“If I knew what I know now I probably would have switched. At the time I had already been playing two or three years, and it seemed like I had been playing a long time. I thought I’d never be able to change the way I played. The reality of the situation was that I hadn’t been playing very long at all, and I probably could have spent the same amount of time learning to play right handed. I did have a go at it, but I just didn’t have the patience. It seemed impossible to me. I decided to make do with what I had, and I made some plastic fingertips for myself. I just persevered with it.”.
Tony Iommi is widely considered to be one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. In 2005, Metal Hammer magazine ranked him number 1 on the poll of the “Riff Lords”, praising his “highly distinctive style of fretsmanship that’s economical yet crushingly effective”. In 2007, Classic Rock Magazine ranked him number 6 on their list of the “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes”. In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him number 25 in their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.