Black Sabbath

Sweet Leaf

Composed by Bill Ward / Geezer Butler / Ozzy Osbourne / Tony Iommi

Song Review by

Black Sabbath had just tapped into a vicious hot streak on the album before this, so the anticipation for this album was quite high. Opening with a few seconds of a harsh cough (the sound of Tony Iommi choking on a joint between recording sessions), one of the greatest guitar riffs ever committed to record suddenly jumps out of the speakers and lays down its mid-tempo groove with gleeful abandon. Few bands outside of the psychedelic movement had professed their love for marijuana, but Sabbath avoided the hypnotic approach of those bands and went straight for the gut with their song. Boasting incredibly simplistic lyrics, Osbourne sounds downright happy as he tells the world how drugs have enhanced his life and introduced him to his mind. This may not be the healthiest message to preach, but the delivery spoke louder to the working-class metal fans they were catering to than any Country Joe and the Fish song ever could. And the music is brilliant, featuring a guitar part that was so great it would go on to fuel the Beastie Boys' "Rhymin' and Stealin'," the Butthole Surfers' manic tribute "Sweet Loaf," and the last 30 seconds of the Red Hot Chili Peppers's "Give It Away," among others. On top of that, artists as diverse as Mogwai, Sacred Reich, and Ugly Kid Joe would also cover it, making it one of the best-known tracks in their canon. In one song, the band managed to prove that metal can be fun, heavy doesn't always mean evil, and drugs aren't just for hippies and artists. Most of that is common knowledge now, but Sabbath was writing this in a time when metal was still considered a fad and critics tried to ignore the strides they were making. "Sweet Leaf" is maybe only below "Paranoid" in terms of the affect it would have on the genre, and it has a much better riff to boast.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Master of Reality 1971 BMG / Noise 5:03
No Image 1972 Tendolar
Sabotage 1975 Castle Music Ltd. 5:29
We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll 1976 Rhino / Warner Bros. 5:04
Live at Last 1980 Noise / Sanctuary
Black Sabbath Greatest Hits 1986 Sanctuary 5:00
No Image 1994 Spectrum Music
The Ozzy Osbourne Years 1994 Import
Under Wheels of Confusion: 1970-1987 1996 Castle/Essential 5:05
Rock Giants 1998 Universal Music
Reunion 1998 Epic 5:07
The Last Supper 1999 Epic / Sony Music
The Best of Black Sabbath [Sanctuary 2000] 2000 Raw Power Records 5:04
Complete 70's Replica CD Collection 2001 Castle Music Ltd.
Past Lives 2002 Rhino 5:26
Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978) 2002 Rhino / Rhino/Warner Bros. 5:05
Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978 2004 Rhino 5:05
Greatest Hits 1970-1978 2006 Rhino / Warner Bros. 5:04
We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll, Vol. 2 2006 Creative Sounds 5:00
Past Lives, Vol. 1 2007 Earmark 5:26
The Greatest Hits 2009 BMG / Sanctuary / Universal Distribution 5:03
Iron Man: The Best of Black Sabbath 2012 Sanctuary / Sanctuary Records 5:04
The Vinyl Collection 1970-1978 2012 Sanctuary
The Complete Albums 1970-1978 2014 Rhino / Warner Bros. 5:04
The Ultimate Collection 2016 Rhino / Warner Bros. 5:03
blue highlight denotes editor's pick