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Statement on Upcoming Black Sabbath Shows

Posted on May.15, 2012 under Black Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Fans and Fellow Musicians,

I sincerely regret to inform you that after a final effort to participate in the upcoming Sabbath shows a failure to agree has continued. At this time I have to inform you that I won’t be playing with Black Sabbath at the Birmingham gig dated May 19th, 2012, nor will I be playing at Download on June 10th, 2012. Further, I will not be playing at Lollapalooza on August 3, 2012.

It is with a very sad heart that I bring you this news. I am sincerely passionate in my desire to play with the band, and I’m very, very sorry that it’s fallen to this. This statement is even more painstaking to write, as I was particularly excited to play alongside Tony Iommi after the recent treatments he underwent. I wanted that to become a reality.

To express my thoughts about you, the Sabbath fans, I’m going to speak to you all through an experience my brother James had recently. My brother Jimmy lives in the U.K. When speaking with him a couple of days ago, he told me that an acquaintance had stopped him on the street and confronted him, “is your brother playing Birmingham? What’s going on? I waited in line with my son and paid x amount for the concert tickets.”

The man’s son is a young drummer. He’s going to see Sabbath, and he wants to see Bill Ward play drums. Upon hearing this news, I felt horrible. I couldn’t help feeling some resentment towards the failure to reach an agreement, the failure to remember where we came from, the failure to be as brothers, as we once were. To be clear, I’m not blaming the other guys or finding any faults with them. I would think it can’t be easy for them either, but this situation is just really sad. It’s sad that it’s come to this. “This” will surely leave a mark and be unwelcome to the memory. Hopefully “this” will heal and pass in time.

My heart sank when Jimmy told me about this young boy. I know this boy is going to be disappointed, and I don’t know how to amend it, other than to put my arms around the boy and tell him I love him. Sabbath fans have a voice and a face, to me you’re human, you have families and despair. You have ferocity and emotions and graciousness, and at this moment as far as I’m concerned you are also that young boy in England. I don’t know how to amend my part in these failings other than to put my arms around you and say I love you and let you know I’m very, very sorry.

Throughout this process, which began over a year ago, I have had to stand up for myself time and time again. I have had to stand up for myself and in doing so realize my actions indirectly, although unintentionally, are upsetting and hurting a lot of you. I know in my heart I couldn’t have done these concerts by agreeing the terms suggested. I made a solemn vow after the last European and Ozzfest concerts that I would never again enter into what was, in my opinion, a totally unsatisfactory contract. I have to stand for something, and as painful as it is, I’m doing it.

Earlier in April 2012, I’d been asked to participate “minimally” in the Download festival. I believe I’d been offered no more than three songs to play while another drummer presumably played the rest of the show with Black Sabbath. I was not willing to participate in that offer. I was not prepared to watch another drummer play a Sabbath set, while I was to play only three songs.

I found out about the Birmingham gig on Monday, April 30 through the Internet ad. I was taken aback somewhat by the date, and the fact it was Birmingham. Knowing the “signable” contract negotiations were at best in shreds, I was upset by the idea that the band was going to play Birmingham and play it assumedly without me. I had no prior knowledge of the date and location, and I felt totally excluded. We contacted the representative for Black Sabbath to see if something could be worked out. In the meantime my drum crew and I, along with our US endorsers, finished all the necessary planning for a swift departure to the UK. There wasn’t a whole lot to complete; we’d all been on standby more or less since mid-January 2012. The remaining work in the UK was confirmed done by our European and UK endorsers and we were good to go by Friday, May 4 2012. There were two stress points: firstly, getting an agreement in place, and secondly, getting to England in a timely manner. Jetlag time was taken into account as well as drum practice, a drum practice room in the heart of Birmingham, accommodation, and travel arrangements were all in place to meet with any band rehearsals that may have transpired before the Birmingham show. So far everything that had been arranged was on my dime, but we didn’t move ahead without a realistic confirmation.

Communications between the representative and my lawyer continued through the weekend of May 5 finalizing on Wednesday, May 9. The offer we received on May 9 was, “come to the UK, play for free and see how the first show goes.” I was tempted. Playing for free would not have been a problem for me, but “seeing how the first show goes” left an element of risk which could have affected Download. My ideal thought was to play in full the Birmingham show, in full Download, and in full Lollapalooza.

I had notified the representative that May 10 was my cutoff day in order to have good lead-in time for England. On the night of May 9 I asked for a brief letter to be sent to the representative asking to find out if we were at an end. On the morning of Thursday, May 10, I received a reply in the affirmative. After consulting with my advisors and crew a decision was made to let go and stop.

I can’t prioritize the Sabbath fans making one show more important than the other. I can’t do that. All of you are important. It’s all the gigs or none at all. I can’t come to Birmingham and “see what happens” knowing there is a risk of not being able to play Download or Lollapalooza. Again, for me, it’s all or nothing. I had to say “no” to Birmingham on the principle of wanting to play all the shows. Saying no to Birmingham is very difficult for me. My family grew up in Birmingham. Black Sabbath grew up in Birmingham. It’s still my hometown and I resent having to arrive at such a difficult choice.

Although the statement was made that, “the door is always open” for me, as explained above, walking through that door is not always as easy as it sounds. There are many complicated issues and unseen and unspoken agendas on hand. I can assure you, my criteria for a “signable” contract is based in mindful principles, respectability, and acknowledgement of my history within the band.

I hold no malice or resentment towards the other band members. I love them; I’m tolerant of them; I’m frustrated with them, as they may be with me. My fight has never been with them. I’ll love them forever. In my opinion, nobody wins this time; the band doesn’t win; the fans for an original lineup don’t win. Nobody wins, nobody. Even the ones who thought they did.

I didn’t want to make this decision, but I have to be honest and transparent. This is the statement I didn’t want to write; it’s the last thing I wanted to do. But, I have written it, and now it can go into the universe.

Since Spring of 2011, I’ve waited patiently and hopefully for a signable contract, you know the rest. I stand for the boy in the U.K., for the coming drum student, for all the drummers, who write their parts out and get stiffed on the publishing, I stand with the Sabbath fans chanting “Bill Ward” and asking “why?” and I stand with Tony and Geezer and Ozzy.

On a final note, even though I’m at an end with the upcoming announced concerts, I will remain with an open mind and a position of willingness to negotiate “signable” terms with Sabbath’s representatives in the future.

Stay strong.
Stay safe.

With all my heart and strength, I love you,
Bill Ward

Following on a separate page is a thank you message to some very extraordinary people.

381 comments for this entry:
  1. Mark

    Well, I for one will not be attending, any shows, or buying any new “Black Sabbath” album without Bill…
    Sounds to me that the contract is basically shortchanging Bill instead of having an equal split amongst the members. As a musician myself I know how I’d feel if I was shortchanged in a situation like this.
    Black Sabbath was a very special band, and without ALL four members, the band would of probably never happened. Great way to throw away one of the best drummers of all time, AND piss off the REAL fans.
    This situation is really no different than if there was a Zep reunion, and Bonham was still alive.
    Glad I got to see the real Black Sabbath in 1999… too bad they only played about 13 songs that night (gee I wonder why)… I really don’t think that it was Bills fault.

    Bill your one of the best of all time! My favorite ever is your UNBELIEVABLE drumming on The Wizard. Love watching you breaking down the parts on the Paranoid Classic albums DVD, your appearance on That Metal Show really showed what kind of guy you are.
    Also your appearance on the 30 Years After The Blizzard dvd, the way you talked about Ozzy’s voice, and how much he loved playing with Randy…. and the way you mentioned how good the lyrics were…
    Those lyrics sure were amazing on those first two Ozzy albums weren’t they 😉
    I’m sure if you dared to mention the names Bob Daisley, or Lee Kerslake it would of been cut right out of the segment, just like their photos were cut right out of the photo book of the box set.
    So very childish, and unprofessional that was, whoever thought of that… and to have them back on the albums, but STILL have Tommy, and Rudy’s photos on The Diary album, and STILL NO MENTION of Johnny Cook is absolutely disgusting!

    I think the moral of the story here is don’t F over very important people involved with a band, because the real fans will have their backs!
    Keep rockin Bill, we want to see you playing in the States with a new kick ass band soon!!!!!

    Boycott this “Black Sabbath” “reunion” people!!
    The magic will not be on the album, or on the stage.

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  3. Evan Ezra

    Bill, you are a true gentleman. As a Sabbath fan for over 40 years, I have an empty feeling right now that yuor “brothers” can t agree to support you and have the original band play together like it was proposed 11.11.11. Some hollow words from the others in reading what they write in their books etc. Peace, Love and keep it true mate.

  4. Scott

    Right on Mr. Ward. We feel ya. Interesting comment about writing out drum parts and getting stiffed on the publishing. Listen and learn kiddos.

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  6. mac

    thank you for this long and articulate explanation of your problems. to me it is surprising that you should be asked to play just three songs. that should make fans mad. every body is saying sabbath without bill is not what we want. i understand your point of view. it sure does make sense to me that if the guys want you to participate you should be able to participate in full. and its great that you say you would even do it free.

  7. Toni

    We are with you, Bill!

  8. Carette

    You did the right thing Bill.
    We cannot blame you.
    A lot of respect to you and a lot of support.
    You rock !

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  11. Jim

    Bill, you have to stand up for what you see as right. If management is unable to offer you a contract commensurate with your place actually and historically with Black Sabbath, then so be it.

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  14. Bob Zelenka

    Dear Bill,GOOD FOR YOU..I along with so many others are sorry to hear that you wont be joining your mates In Black Sabbath..But It is necesary to stanhd up for yourself in this world,or else you become a doormat,and thats not something you,I or anyone else should allow to happen.We all know who is the real problem here and Im so happy to see someone telling her NO!

  15. Brian Lynch

    As you in the UK say: “I am gutted”. I bought tix to Lollapalooza with the sole purpose of bringing my sons (Bass and Guitar) to see BLACK SABBATH. We will still fly to Chicago and go to the show but I am crushed. No Bill = No Black Sabbath. Man this hurts. But I think you did the right thing Bill. Stay true to yourself brother. Whoever is the profiteer that is making the reunion impossible should rot in hell.

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  17. Dave Allen

    Bill, the mere fact that you’re even in this position is ridiculous and flat out wrong. I feel for you and I feel for the fans. To say that you’re more than 25% of Black Sabbath would not be a stretch. I wish you all the best in the future and appreciate all your musical contributions over the years. Cheers!


  18. Mark Vance

    I understand Bill but this sucks ~ Sabbath are the first band I ever really got into but I just missed out on seeing the original line up . I grew up on the same streets you guys did, I emptied my savings to buy the grossly inflated tickets from touts who are making more than double on the face value of the tickets all to fullfill my dream to see you guys play once more to a brummie crowd in a seedy dive where you stick to the floor . The money men rip us all off mate . Im still gonna go but its gonna be a bit hollow without you

  19. Jeff

    Bill, You are the reason I started playing Drums..I was 12 when I learned how to play every song on Master Of Reality..I wish many times I would have stood up for myself..I might have had a better career at it..I am now 51..and still play in a band called Black Zappath..Sabbath/Zep tribute band..I cant say anything that has not already been said..Except..We are with you and WE love you too!!!Do what you gotta do..and I hope to see you at a concert hall in my area soon..

  20. mr. moon

    No Bill Ward = No *true* Sabbath Reunion.

    Personally, I’m not into it at all without Bill.

    Bill, good luck, stay true to yourself, and rock on!

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  22. Dieter

    Bill, as a fan and supporter of both, you and the band, I am deeply saddened to hear this. And I’m not just saying that, having the opportunity to see the four of you one more time together on stage would have meant the world to me. I love the four of you as individuals, but to me – and that might be rather selfish – I always looked at you as unit consisting of four irreplaceable elements.

    I still don’t understand all whole contract thing, but based on what you just described, especially the utterly atrocious and disrespectful ‘offer’ to graciously allow you to play on three track and sit put the rest for the show, I totally understand your decision.

    Hope dies last, being naively and notoriously positive, I still hope for that one phone call that will straighten everything out so that you can join the other three guys on tour and on the album.

    With love and respect,


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  24. mike

    while I see it as disappointing that you will not play at this point with “black sabbath” I applaud you for standing up for yourself and saying sot the lot.

    You and Geezer are what made Sabbath the powerhouse it is, behind the booming power chords, behind the shrieking and singing of Ozzy, sits the best fucking rhythm section in ALL of metaldom, for ALL TIME. If they cant see past the dollar signs, their loss. Keep the faith Bill, and stand your ground. Your contribution is far too large to be treated this way.

    Ave Metal!

  25. Jojo

    Bill, I’m glad you don’t harbor any resentments against your bandmates, so please allow me. They should be ashamed for their lack of humanity and respect, and I will never give any of them a dime of mine in any projects they are involved in, When they receive their just desserts, and they will, I will not shed a tear.

  26. SJT

    This not shocking news in any way,promoters,lawyers,management always find a way to destroy original lineups for their own greed,the music business is going down the toilet,SCREW THAT STINKING TOUR AND JUST BE CONTENT WITH A NEW STUDIO ALBUM WITH THE ORIGINAL LINE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Rich

    Hang in there Bill, this is bullshit. You are in the right brother.

  28. Monte

    “It’s all the gigs or none at all.” Why can’t they see it’s what we want !, WTF do these people think that you cant play drums ? well if thats the case (Ozzy era Sabbath is always my #1 choice) dont get me wrong here, Ive heard WAY better guitarist, I’ve heard better Bassist, I’ve heard much better singing, I’ve heard better drumming yeah ! but nobody plays Sabbath Music like the four original members and without any one of them ITS NOT SABBATH, when Ozzy left (got fired) they should have changed the name, I grew up listening to these guys and it’s these guys I want to SEE and HEAR again if any. I truly believe someone has to much hold over this contract to think they can cut our beloved Bill out of it and Calling their next shows a “SABBATH REUNION” it would be closed to Tony Iommi Fused or IOMMI “Who’s Fooling Who ?” I know Bill loves these guys but I’m ashamed of Tony, Geezer and Ozzy for not putting more effort in getting this to work, If they cared about the TRUE FANS they would stand up against whomever is doing this and MAKE IT HAPPEN. although it maybe to late for some of the shows they could possibly add more later. We Love you Bill, if they wont do this then stay strong and get your solo stuff on track again because I’ll buy that before I buy something they claim is a SABS LP for sure !

  29. steve chambers

    Bill, saw you back in the 70’s,,, birmingham odeon,, never say die tour,, for me a life changing experience.
    obviously, being in sabbath was more than a life changer for you, it was a way of life. sometimes, we all need a little respect, and if its not there, there is something wrong. would have loved to have seen you all together again, but for the right reasons its obviously not possible. i suspect this is more of a management issue than a band issue, and we all, just like you, hope for it to come together at some point in the near future. i wont tell you to stay strong, because although you are probably gutted on the inside, you have had the strength to stand your ground,, i respect that,, but hey, be happy at least, we all knew you wanted it to happen just as much as we did.
    we all love you very much bill, you are in our hearts forever and allways will be.

    steve / birmingham / uk / home.

  30. Rich

    You’re an inspiration to us all, Bill. Full respect for sticking to your guns. Saddened though many may be by this situation, I am certain that nobody thinks any less of you for leaving the contract unsigned and the shows unplayed; you did the right thing. I would rather not see a Sabbath show at all than one overshadowed by compromise and resentment. Here’s hoping matters may be resolved in future, but whatever happens you still leave us with 8 of the greatest albums ever made, and no amount of bad contracts or money obsessed maggots can ever take that away. You’re the man Bill. Love and hugs straight back at you.

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  32. Luiz

    for me, i agree with bill’s opinion.

    WE WANT ALL BLACK SABBATH ORIGINAL MEMBERS TOGHETER, but by the way I think the dream is over !

  33. don m

    That broke my heart Bill, I was almost in tears reading your statement. You are a true, warm-hearted genuine person who cares for his fans and wants nothing more but to play drums and enjoy music, that’s what it’s all about Bill and our hearts go out to you. We’re with you and we love you. Stay strong!


  34. T.K.

    Bill, without you there will be no Sabbath reunion. This all goes to show what greed has really done to people in this day & age. I have decided to not attend any of the shows, as this has really sickened me. Not a lot more to say.

  35. Robert

    I totally understand your point of view and your decision. Good call, Bill.

  36. Mike G in Charlottesville, VA

    Bill- Today’s update was heartbreaking post from a class act. Sabbath touring without you is just as wrong as Van Halen touring without Michael Anthony. Your drumming made the great Sabbath songs the best they could be. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. I was priveleged to be able to turn on the radio and hear some of the best bands to ever play. You are in the same class as Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and John Bonham. You and your fans deserve to be treated with the honor and respect that you have earned.

    Best wishes


  37. Seth Bulkin

    This is a shame Bill. I grew up listening to your Black Sabbath. Your drumming is very unique and crucial in the Sabbath sound. As a professional musician I understand the troubles with publishing and contracts but a successful “band” needs to be on equal ground. You’re the man and always will be. Glad you’re doing what’s right.

  38. Blackest

    Thanks for writing this Bill, good to see that you’ve spent time trying to prepare and good to see a lengthy well thoughtout statement. I’ll be at the Birmingham show and you will be extremely missed. Why can’t “the people involved” remember that almost all your original Black Sabbath recordings were credited to all of you as you all played a part in creating the song and the band.

    Don’t let ’em get you down.
    Peace, brother Bill!

  39. Felipe Iturrieta

    Hey there. Just another young drummer adding my voice to the choir. As far as I remember, Black Sabbath has Bill Ward on the drums, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to watch a concert without you.
    Thanks for standing with us.

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