Iommi onstage with
Anthony Frank Iommi
19 February 1948
Anthony Frank Iommi (
While working in a factory as a teenager, Iommi lost the tips of the middle and ring fingers of his right hand in an accident, an event which crucially impacted his playing style. Iommi briefly left Black Sabbath (then known as Earth) in 1968 to join
Iommi was ranked number 25 in
In 2011, he published his autobiography, entitled Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath.
Anthony Frank Iommi was born in
Born and raised in
At about age 10, Iommi began working out and learned
At the age of 17, Iommi lost the tips of the middle and ring fingers of his right hand in an industrial accident on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory. Iommi described how he "was told 'you'll never play again. It was just unbelievable. I sat in the hospital with my hand in this bag and I thought 'that's it – I'm finished. But eventually I thought 'I'm not going to accept that. There must be a way I can play'." After the injury Iommi considered abandoning the guitar entirely. However, his factory foreman played him a recording of famous jazz guitarist
My friend said, "Listen to this guy play", and I went, "No way! Listening to someone play the guitar is the very last thing I want to do right now!" But he kept insisting and he ended up playing the record for me. I told him I thought it was really good and then he said, "You know, the guy's only playing with two fingers on his fretboard hand because of an injury he sustained in a terrible fire." I was totally knocked back by this revelation and was so impressed by what I had just heard that I suddenly became inspired to start trying to play again.
Inspired by Reinhardt's two-fingered guitar playing, Iommi decided to try playing guitar again, though the injury made it quite painful to do so. Although it was an option, Iommi never seriously considered switching hands and learning to play right-handed. In an interview with
If I knew what I know now I probably would have switched. At the time I had already been playing two or three years, and it seemed like I had been playing a long time. I thought I’d never be able to change the way I played. The reality of the situation was that I hadn’t been playing very long at all, and I probably could have spent the same amount of time learning to play right handed. I did have a go at it, but I just didn’t have the patience. It seemed impossible to me. I decided to make do with what I had, and I made some plastic fingertips for myself. I just persevered with it.
He ultimately decided to continue playing left-handed. To do so, he fitted homemade thimbles to his injured fingers to extend and protect them; the thimbles were made from an old
Iommi reflected in 2016 saying that his greatest regret is losing his fingertips.
It became a burden. Some people say it helped me invent the kind of music I play, but I don’t know whether it did. It’s just something I’ve had to learn to live with. It affects your playing style; you can’t feel the strings, and there are certain chords I can’t play. Right at the beginning I was told by doctors: “You won’t be playing guitar.” But I believed I could do it, and I did.