Randy Rhoads would have celebrated a birthday on Dec. 6 each year, if not for the plane accident that cut his life tragically short.

He gave fans less than 10 years worth of music – first with Quiet Riot and then with Ozzy Osbourne, who called a him "saint" and an "angel." Still, Rhoads' impact will never slip quietly out of fans' memories.

In fact, they faithfully gather to remember the guitarist each year at his grave in San Bernardino, Calif. "We will never forget him," Osbourne told Guitar Player, five months after the March 1982 accident that killed Rhoads. It did more than shut down their tour; the tragedy changed Osbourne's life forever.

"His musical legacy lives on in the minds and music of his many fans," the singer added. "I don’t think people have ever fully realized what a talent that guy was. He was not only a great rock 'n' roll player, but in the classics he was phenomenal, and in every other field he was phenomenal."

Rhoads was born in 1956, and raised by a single mother who got him involved in music early. By the time he was a teenager, Rhoads was playing in bands with his brother and friends. His classical guitar training set him apart from other young guitar heroes of his day. He formed Quiet Riot in 1972 and left in 1979 to join Osbourne for his new solo venture. Even more than his talent, it was Rhoads' smile and innocence that endeared the guitarist to the former Black Sabbath frontman.

Together, the pair made sure they didn't follow traditional heavy metal chord structures and key signatures. "I don’t know about keys, because I don’t read music and I don’t really understand it," Osbourne said in 1982. "I just get up there and scream around and jump around, you know? So, we made a rule that every number that we recorded on an album was never played in the same key. It’s a different key in every number. We had a great rapport together. We loved each other very dearly. I swear to God, the tragedy of my life is the day he died."

Osbourne's new lead guitarist was as much of a draw in concert as he was. Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello told Rolling Stone he practiced eight hours a day because of Rhoads. Osbourne called Randy the most dedicated musician he'd ever met. Instead of joining the band in pre- and post-show celebrations, Rhoads would spend his time practicing.

Rhoads was ranked No. 36 on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. At the time of his death, he was digging deeper into jazz and classical music, using both to forge an innovative path for heavy-metal guitar. There's little doubt that time would have only magnified Rhoads' influence. The world was really just learning of his talent when his plane went down.
 
 

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