It is nothing new that rock music and its creators, particularly the Prince of Darkness, are linked to the occult. No, Ozzy is not the topic at hand. Call him by any name you’re comfortable with, such as Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, Shaitan, or The Devil. Some conservative people dislike rock music because it tends to be loud and aggressive. While this prejudice is unjustified, to say the least, some rock musicians have capitalized on it or are genuinely adept at the dark arts. Here are several musicians who supposedly sold their souls to the devil in return for fame, among backmasked sounds, strange iconography, and occult pop references.
The narrative of Robert Johnson, an American blues guitarist who is said to have traded his soul to the devil in exchange for guitar-playing prowess, is the source of the urban legend that rock artists sell their souls to the devil. This notion has also been fueled by the relationship between rock music and the occult, which some rock artists have exploited or who really practice the dark arts.
Here are some of them.
While some found David Bowie’s identity a bit too much to handle, he developed an interest in the occult, mostly as a result of Aleister Crowley’s influence. Crowley was a prominent member of the occult community and was known as “the wickedest man in the world.” In his song “Quicksand” from 1971, Bowie paid homage to Crowley. In 1976, Bowie told Rolling Stone Magazine, “Rock has always been the Devil’s music…I believe rock’n’roll is dangerous. I feel we’re only heralding something even darker than ourselves.”
John Lennon, a second “student” of Aleister Crowley, encouraged the other Beatles to be interested in the occultist’s life. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s classic 1967 album cover displayed the outcome. Lennon made a deal with the devil to become more renowned than the King of Rock n’ Roll, according to Joseph Niezgoda’s book The Lennon Prophecy. Further “clues” are drawn by Niezgoda, suggesting that the agreement was in place for 20 years, up to the day Chapman shot John Lennon to death after hearing a voice in his brain say, “Do it!”
One occultist who went further than the ordinary was Mick Jagger, who devoured books like Taoist Secret of The Golden Flower. The song “Sympathy For The Devil” was created with Keith Richards’ assistance and is a made-up account of the Devil showing himself at various moments in history. One could raise an eyebrow at the Stones’ poster child for performing the song while sporting phony demon tattoos and letting the Church of Satan utilize the song’s soundtrack. Jagger offered his opinion, “I thought it was a really odd thing, because it was only one song, after all. It wasn’t like it was a whole album, with lots of occult signs on the back. People seemed to embrace the image so readily, [and] it carried all the way over into heavy metal bands.”
Another key player in the rock-occult puzzle was Vincent Furnier, a pioneer of shock rock also known by his stage name, Alice Cooper. Cooper says that he “found out” that he was the reincarnation of a witch with the same name from the 17th century during an Ouija board encounter, which is where he obtained his stage name. Onstage, Cooper would cover himself in makeup, dress in feminine garb, and perform plays that portrayed morbidity such as hanging himself from a rope, beheading babies, and smashing baby dolls while singing songs with similarly macabre titles.
Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was most likely one of the “true” occultists in the world of rock music. Page was so fascinated with Aleister Crowley, who was always a famous figure among rock artists, that he even went so far as to purchase Crowley’s Boleskine House in Scotland. Page looked for occult items by attending auctions or approaching individual collectors. He even attended seances, which were gatherings where people tried to connect with the dead.
This sparked allegations that Led Zeppelin was a devil’s band, which intensified after Robert Plant’s son Karac and John Bonham both went away. Believers believed that these deaths were divine punishment for the years Page spent working with the devil. Page is thought to be a devout Thelemite, a follower of Crowley’s Thelemaic religion, and a member of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. In one of his interviews, Page made the statement, “I do not worship the Devil,” as he said in a Rolling Stone interview that year.
This idea was strengthened among fans and the inquisitive with the introduction of hard rock and heavy metal. While other bands like Black Sabbath and AC/DC dispelled rumors about their purported occultism with songs like “Highway To Hell,” Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath appears to have capitalized on the fad with his infamous chord progression that featured a flattened fifth note on the major scale, resulting in dissonance and a very ominous sound. Medieval Europeans strongly avoided using this in their works because they thought it was Diabolus in Musica or the Devil in Music.
Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of Darkness, experienced the horrifying progression as well, claiming, “He came to rehearsal one day, and said, ‘Isn’t it funny how people pay money to watch horror films; why don’t we start playing scary music?’ And then he came up with that ‘Black Sabbath’ riff, which was the scariest riff I’ve ever heard in my life.”