BLACK SABBATH bassist Geezer Butler spoke to Bryan Reesman of Grammy.com about the writing process for the song “God Is Dead?”, which won a Grammy in the “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” category in the pre-telecast ceremony at the 56th annual Grammy Awards on January 26 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. “God Is Dead?” also picked up a nomination in the “Best Rock Song” category. In addition, SABBATH’s comeback CD, “13”, earned a nod for “Best Rock Album”.
“Tony [Iommi, guitar] came up with most of the music [for ’13’], and then we all worked together to arrange it,” Geezer said. “Ozzy [Osbourne, vocals] always jams along to us, and he came up with the title ‘God Is Dead?’ He remembered the  Time magazine [cover story titled] ‘Is God Dead?’ — but he remembered it as ‘God Is Dead.’ I had a mini-argument with him about it. I looked it up online and showed him that it was ‘Is God Dead?’ Then I read the Nietzsche philosophy about it. [Editor’s note: “God is dead” is a widely quoted statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.]
“I wrote it about a person who thought it was completely revolting to think that somebody would say that, and it sticks in his head and he keeps hearing it in his mind. So he turns violent in the end and sets out to murder everybody. It was also inspired by the shootings that were going on at the time in the States. People were saying that ‘God told them to do it,’ and stuff like that.
That was one of the first songs we started writing together, so that probably took the longest to [finish]. There was a lot of work before we got to the studio, and we knew that was a good song. The lyrics were written the night before recording them. The only lyrics that I had written [prior to recording] were ‘Dear Father’ like a year before we went into the studio, and that was because of all the priests being exposed, no pun intended, on the news.”
Osbourne told Shortlist that although he came up with the title for “God Is Dead?”, Butler wanted to call it something else. Ozzy said, “I was in a doctor’s office and there was a magazine in there with that line on the cover. I thought, ‘Yeah — people flew planes into the World Trade Center because of God, there’s all this fucking shit going on in the world in the name of God.'” Geezer added, “Ozzy gave me that line, and I wrote the lyrics. I wanted to call the song ‘American Jihad’.”
Ozzy continued, “Fuck that. I’m the guy at the front singing it; I would have had a fucking army after me . . . In the early days [of BLACK SABBATH], there was a lot of backlash from religious groups . . . I was sent letters written in blood. In my house I must have 25 fucking Bibles, each with a marked-up passage that [the sender] wanted me to read.”
“13” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart in June 2013, the first SABBATH album to ever top the U.S. chart.
The disc features Ozzy, Butler and Iommi playing together for the first time in 35 years. Their last effort together was 1978’s “Never Say Die!”