Lee Kerslake has died. As the long-time drummer for British rock band Uriah Heep—and for Ozzy Osbourne’s solo efforts for two-eventually contentious albums—Kerslake spent more than 40 years of his life as a touring musician, playing on dozens of albums, and (to pick one achievement out of many) contributing the distinctive beats and vibraslap sound to Osbourne’s monumentally influential “Crazy Train.” Kerslake died this week of prostate cancer; per Variety, he was 73.
Although he’d played with several of the band’s members in earlier groups (most notably the Gods), Kerslake didn’t join Uriah Heep until 1971, just in time for the “core” quintet of himself, David Byron, Gary Thain, Mick Box, and Ken Hensley to solidify around 1972's Demons And Wizards. Kerslake stuck with the group for eight years (and nine studio albums), but rising tensions in the band, and with its management, led him to depart in 1979. Shortly after, he fell in with Osbourne, and became the drummer for the band that was initially known as Blizzard Of Ozz—a title which eventually became the name of the group’s first album, now under Osbourne’s solo name. Still held up as a worthy entrant into lists of the greatest metal albums of all time (to say nothing of the most lucrative, given its quadruple platinum status), Blizzard Of Ozz featured Kerslake on drums, Osbourne on vocals, Randy Rhoads on guitar, and Bob Daisley on bass. (At least, it did until 2002, when Osbourne re-issued the album with Kerslake and Daisley’s parts stripped out and replaced, after they sued him over an allegedly unfair royalty distribution; ditto their second album together, Diary Of A Madman.)
After parting ways (not especially amicably) with Osbourne, Kerslake returned to Uriah Heep in 1982, staying with the band until health problems pretty much ended his career in 2007. He eventually played or appeared on 17 of the band’s studio albums, constituting the majority of his musical career—even if most of it couldn’t hold a candle, financially, to the success he’d had with Osbourne.
Kerslake was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago, although he only announced his diagnosis in 2018. Among his self-styled final requests, he requested that his contributions to Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary be acknowledged by Osbourne, in the form of the platinum certification for the two albums; Osbourne assented, and sent him the plaques last year.
Kerslake is survived by his wife, Sue.