Former OZZY OSBOURNE and URIAH HEEP drummer Lee Kerslake has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 73 years old.
“It’s with the heaviest of hearts that I share with you that Lee Kerslake, my friend of 55 years and the best drummer I ever played with, lost his battle with cancer at 03:30 this morning,” Kerslake‘s longtime URIAH HEEP bandmate Ken Hensley wrote on social media. “He died peacefully, praise The Lord, but he will be terribly missed.”
URIAH HEEP guitarist Mick Box wrote on Facebook: “Lee was one of the kindest men on earth, as well as being a brother he was an incredible drummer, singer and song writer! He had a passion for life bar none and was much loved by the fans, as well as anyone who crossed his path!”
In January 2019, Kerslake was inducted into the Hall Of Heavy Metal History in Anaheim, California. During his induction, Kerslake was presented with two platinum discs for his work with the BLACK SABBATH frontman. The presentation was filmed for Kerslake‘s documentary.
Lee was a member of Ozzy‘s band in 1980 and 1981 during the Randy Rhoads era, performing on the singer’s first two solo albums.
During an interview with The Metal Voice in December 2018, the drummer revealed that after all these years, he just wanted platinum album certifications for both “Blizzard Of Ozz” and “Diary Of A Madman”, so he can feel some acknowledgement for his work before he dies.
“I really wrote a nice letter to them and I hope they will come to terms with it and say yes,” he told The Metal Voice of his appeal to Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne.
Kerslake had since been granted his wish as Ozzy shared a photo on social media of Lee sitting on a sofa and holding the “Blizzard” and “Madman” platinum discs, a handwritten letter from Ozzy placed on his chest.
“I’m so glad that Lee Kerslake is enjoying his Blizzard and Diary platinum albums,” Osbourne wrote in an accompanying caption. “I hope you feel better. Love, Ozzy”
According to the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA), 1980’s “Blizzard Of Ozz” has been certified quintuple platinum for shipments in excess of five million copies, while 1981’s “Diary Of A Madman” has been certified triple platinum for more three million units sold.
Kerslake and bassist Bob Daisley had been embroiled in a legal battle with the Osbournes for many years, which had taken a massive financial toll on the drummer.
“I went belly-up bankrupt when I lost the case to Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne in the courts,” Lee told The Metal Voice. “It cost me hundreds of thousands and I had to sell the house and then started to get ill. I never managed to get back up, but a platinum certification on my wall for these albums would be fantastic and it would say I helped create those albums.”
Kerslake and Daisley were fired before “Diary of A Madman” was released and in the process had their names removed from the album. Bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge are credited in the album’s liner notes and featured in the photo on the inner sleeve. The tracks played by Kerslake and Daisley on both albums were replaced on a reissue (by current METALLICA bassist Robert Trujillo and FAITH NO MORE drummer Mike Bordin) after the duo sued Ozzy and Sharon over royalties. Daisley and Kerslake‘s original performances were restored in the 2011 reissues of the albums.
In the December 2018 interview, Kerslake told The Metal Voice that his prostate cancer had spread to the rest of his body. “I have now have bone cancer, which is a nasty one, so the doctor gave me about eight months to live,” he said. “But I’ve been fighting all the way. Five years ago, they gave me four years to live, and so that gives you an idea.”
He added that he was remaining positive. “I’m fighting it and there’s no telling what can happen,” he said. “They might have a new drug come out, and I’ll experiment with it if it keeps me alive… All this time I have had this terminal cancer, but I have defied it because the music kept me fighting.”
Kerslake had been working on the aforementioned autobiographical documentary as well as a new album called “Eleventeen”.
Lee was one of the kindest men on earth, as well as being a brother he was an incredible drummer, singer and song…
RIP LEE KERSLAKE. Lee was a dynamo of a drummer who drove Uriah Heep through their heyday like a Crazy Train. He propelled Ozzy’s original band the same way. When last in London he came to visit although ill. A lovely man who fought cancer to the end with a smile. Rest My Friend https://t.co/P1sqpxrtp5
— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) September 19, 2020