Life & Culture

Judaism is the only religion I have and the only one I’m comfortable with, says Sharon Osbourne

The former X Factor judge talks about being a patrilineal Jew and why she and Ozzy are leaving LA for the UK


Sharon Osbourne speaks to the JC from her home

All being well by the time you read this Sharon Osbourne and her Black Sabbath rock star husband Ozzy will be safely installed in their Buckinghamshire home. They have had enough of their home in Los Angeles where Sharon, 71 and Ozzy, 75, became one of the most high-profile couples on the planet.

Their children, Jack, Kelly and Aimee — all grown up, of course, will visit their parents in their £5.5million Grade II-listed house in the Chalfonts. Yet there will be little time to settle before Sharon takes to the stage with her new show, Cut the Crap, in which she promises to “reveal all” about the hardest years of her eventful life: from Ozzy’s infidelity, his drug addiction, to where the hard times began with her loose cannon of a father.

It would be strange if she did not also speak candidly about the drug Ozempic, which she blames for her worrying weight loss. She speaks candidly about most things. She was recently asked on live TV if Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters was antisemitic. “Is the Pope Catholic?” she replied. She has also called Jeremy Corbyn an “arrogant, ugly f**k”.

However, despite her relocation back to the UK, when I meet Osbourne online she is not only in Los Angeles, she is in bed. True, the time difference accounts in part for this, but it is still slightly rock ’n’ roll to be interviewed at 11am while under a duvet. Yet there is some decorum here. Although my mug is displayed on Osbourne’s phone, only her voice is on mine.

I ask about her move to the UK. “You know, people come here, they visit Malibu they look at the beach, they walk around Beverly Hills and they go, ‘God, this place is fantastic.’ But you look a little deeper and you see the way it really is.”

Ozzy has spoken about how mass shootings have become more a part of the American way of life than ever before. Sharon, meanwhile, has has grown sick of paparazzi intrusion, particularly when it comes to Ozzy’s health battles, which include a spinal injury and Parkinson’s.

“My husband can’t even go to the doctor here without the pictures being taking and articles saying he’s got three months to live and all that rubbish,” she says. So plenty reason to move. But it seems something else may be behind the decision.

“I want to go back to where I came from. It is very strange here right now,” she says, inching closer to her point. “I just feel safer back in England.”

Safer? It’s true that Osbourne received death threats and accusations of racism after the row that blew up on the American daytime show The Talk, on which more later. But it seems the insecurity she feels is more connected to her Jewishness, a heritage she wholly embraces despite once describing herself as “half a Jew” married to “a little bloke from Birmingham (self-aggrandisement is not the Osbourne way).

The Jewish half comes from her father, the renowned music promoter and manager Don Arden who had ELO, the Small Faces and Black Sabbath on his books before Sharon married Ozzy and broke the bonds that kept Black Sabbath shackled to the impresario. Arden was feared for his violent outbursts. When the Faces wanted to move to another manager, Robert Stigwood, because they hadn’t seen the money from their many hits, it is said that Arden went round to Stigwood’s office with a couple of hoodlums and dangled his competitor upside down from his office window. And we are not talking about a ground-floor window.

Osbourne’s describes her relationship with her father as “weird”. While working for him he expected his daughter to do things that were “very risky” and “not legal”. He had a policy, she says, of never putting his name on paper, often using his daughter’s on contracts instead. One consequence of this malpractice was that on least one occasion Ozzy ended up paying his father-in-law’s tax bill.

“He used me as his fall-guy,” says Sharon. “How do you deal with that? How do you forgive?”

For a long time she didn’t. Father and daughter did not speak to each other for 15 years. On the current Osbourne family podcast Sharon recently spoke about how her father mistreated her when she was a child, even throwing her down the stairs.

“He used to wrap my hair around his hand and yank my head,” she tells me. “It was a different time,” she says in mitigation for her late father. “People behaved differently to their kids then. It’s so bad to carry that anger around with you and I was there for my dad when he needed me when he was older.”

But after her father died a new rift opened between Osbourne and her brother David who wanted to bury him next to their mother.

“But she was buried in a church graveyard,” says Osbourne. “I mean, there is no way on God’s earth my father would have wanted that. I argued with my brother. We always had a very volatile relationship.”

Sharon won the burial war and paid for the funeral. But things had soured so much with her brother, she didn’t turn up to the funeral. “I just didn’t want to see him,” she says of David. “And I haven’t seen him since.”

Osbourne’s Gentile half comes from her Catholic mother Hope Shaw, but if she is “half a Jew” it is the Jewish half that defines her. Why did her Jewish side come to the dominate? And is it not strange that she identifies more strongly with her father, with whom she had such difficult relationship, instead of her mother?

“We were brought up in basically a Jewish household,” says Osbourne. “My family, my father’s family, my aunt, my cousins, are all Jewish. And observant Jews who practise and love their religion. So Judaism is the only religion I have, and the only one with which I feel comfortable.”

I wonder if Osbourne sometimes regrets the things she has said.

“That’s a good question,” she says, and then after a moment’s pause, replies: “No, because it’s me. I can feel sad and I don’t want to hurt anyone. But what can I do except apologise?”

One of her more recent apologies was very public. In 2021 while on the CBS American daytime talk show The Talk Osbourne, she defended her friend Piers Morgan, whose outburst about the Duchess of Sussex on ITV’s Good Morning Britain attracted accusations of racism. During the exchange about the controversy on the American talk show there were tears from Osbourne’s fellow panellist Sheryl Underwood, who is black.

Osbourne didn’t buy it. “Crying was always her schtick on TV. Lot’s of people do it to get more close-ups. I said to her, ‘You’re crying? Why are you crying?’”

There was an outcry and Osbourne was cancelled after 11 years on the programme amid accusations she was being racist.

“I took a woman of colour’s feelings away from her,” explains Osbourne as if repeating a lesson that has been taught. There is no hint of irony or facetiousness in her words, but equally, she is in no mood to allow the teachers of identity politics to get away with hypocrisy. She brings up Whoopi Goldberg, whose remarks about the Holocaust on the talk show The View also made headlines when she claimed the Shoah was not about race. Like Osbourne, Goldberg made an apology. But unlike Osbourne, Goldberg was allowed to continue her job.

“Whoopi was on probation for two weeks,” she says as an example of how Jews don’t count. “I’ve always got on with Whoopi and she must love Jews because she gave herself a Jewish surname,” she adds, allowing herself a moment of irony after all.

The political context of her dismissal is linked she says to the politics of woke, a movement to which Osbourne attaches the current wave of antisemitism. Her view was entrenched by statements issued by Black Lives Matter (BLM). One from BLM Chicago, expressed support for Hamas and included images of paragliders.

“It started with the woke generation,” observes Osbourne of the rise of Jew hatred. “If you’ve got posters in streets all over the world with pictures of people who have been kidnapped and are being held as hostages, and there are other people in the world tearing those posters down, that is absolute hatred.”

Perhaps this then is why Osbourne feels safer in Buckinghamshire than she does in California where, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League entitled Hate in the Golden State, incidents of antisemitism have soared.

“Of course you feel vulnerable,” says Osbourne. “How can you not feel intimidated or a little uneasy with what is going on in the world if you’re a Jew. Antisemitism is like a virus. People who hate Jews think Israel’s war against Hamas gives them a legit reason to have a go at Jews now. I honestly can’t believe the things I’ve read on social media about Jews and the war on Hamas in Gaza.”

However, cowering in adversity is not the Sharon Osbourne way. She has forthright words for the haters, especially the Gen Z anti-Israel protesters whom she describes as “loudmouths”.

“These kids are so entitled but that does not give them the right to verbalise on something which is taking people’s lives in a war. They have no world experience, they are not educated about the situation. Shut the f**k up and go back to school.”

​Sharon Osbourne: Cut the Crap is at The Fortune Theatre, London on 21 January and then The Alexandria, Birmingham on 24 January.

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