Even the best artists sometimes need a little help articulating their feelings.
There are emotions that are so deep and painful in nature that handing the subject over to a fellow respected wordsmith can produce a degree of clarity that the person who lives with these feelings would be unable to attain on their own.
This was the case when Ozzy Osbourne reached out to Lemmy Kilmister for assistance with putting together lyrics for his sixth solo album, No More Tears. The late Motörhead frontman had a hand in writing a number of the record’s best-loved tracks, including the Grammy-winning “I Don’t Want to Change the World” as well as “Hellraiser,” “Desire,” and “Road to Nowhere.”
Among all of these achievements, Lemmy’s greatest contribution undoubtedly is the album’s centerpiece “Mama, I’m Coming Home.”
Being a power ballad, “Mama, I’m Coming Home” naturally adopted a more somber tone than anything else on No More Tears. Osbourne, who had long struggled with sobriety, had quit using drugs and alcohol prior to writing the song. While the whole album showcased a newfound self-awareness for the Prince Of Darkness, this particular track highlighted Ozzy at his most reflective. As he came to terms with his addictions, new doors opened in his very soul.
Written in conjunction with Osbourne’s longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde and Lemmy, the lyrics to “Mama, I’m Coming Home” were inspired by the stark personal realization that Ozzy was at a turning point. Knowing that he was staring death in the face if he didn’t get sober, he channeled his remorseful feelings towards his wife Sharon as well as painful memories from his childhood into song.
Sharon and Ozzy first met when her father, Don Arden, was managing Black Sabbath in 1970. Once Osbourne began embarking on a solo career in 1979, she stepped into a management position and the two began dating. The couple married in 1982.
Osbourne had the melody for the track stuck in his head for many years. However, he was unable to accurately chart its direction until Wylde came aboard. A reference to Sharon’s affectionate pet name “Mama” gave the title an added sense of pathos.
He addressed the writing process in the liner notes for his 1997 compilation, The Ozzman Cometh, saying: “I had been walking around with the melody in my head for a couple of years but never got a chance to finish it until I was working with Zakk on the No More Tears album. At that time Zakk and I were doing a lot of writing on the piano. ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ was always something I’d say on the phone to my wife near the end of a tour.”
Of Lemmy’s involvement, Ozzy told Jonesy’s Jukebox in 2017: “I was doing one of my albums, and I went to his house and said, ‘Would you care to do some lyrics? He said, ‘Yeah, come back in a couple of hours.’ And I went back, and he says, ‘Do you like them?’ I read them and he had given me five different sets of lyrics, and they were all great!”
The collaboration between Osbourne and Lemmy was so fruitful on No More Tears that the pair continued writing together throughout the 1990s, most notably “See You on the Other Side” and “My Little Man,” both off of Osbourne’s seventh album, Ozzmosis, and the Motörhead track “I Ain’t No Nice Guy.”
To this day, “Mama, I’m Coming Home” remains Osbourne’s only solo top 40 single, peaking at No. 28 the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock charts.