It was Tony Iommi’s last day of work at a sheet metal factory, before starting a European concert tour. The 17-year-old guitarist was put to work on an unfamiliar machine, and in an excruciating accident chopped off the tops of the ring and middle fingers of his right hand.
Plunged into a depression by the prospect of not performing again, Iommi was given a recording by Django Reinhardt, who played jazz guitar with only two fingers on his fretting hand. Inspired, Iommi designed thimble-like prosthetic devices, changed his guitar setup and went on to found Black Sabbath.
To protect his fingers, Iommi detuned his instrument, creating the characteristic heavy metal sound. He also famously fired Ozzy Osbourne from the group.
Iommi has written a memoir of his touring days, “Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath.”
We spoke at Bloomberg world headquarters in New York.
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(Paul Goguen is a reporter and photo editor for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)