Ray Gillen, singer of BLACK SABBATH and BADLANDS, died of AIDS on December 3, 1993. Just 32 years of age, the vocalist many predicted for stardom had hidden his illness for many years, denying it to his closest friends right to the very end.
Ray is best remembered for the debut BADLANDS album and his role as quickfire replacement for Glenn Hughes on BLACK SABBATH's troubled 1986 U.S. and U.K. dates. In an exclusive interview never made available on the Internet until now, Rockdetector.com executive editor Garry Sharpe-Young spoke at length with Ray in 1986 just before he took to the stage for his very last BLACK SABBATH performance. An excerpt from the interview follows:
Rockdetector.com: How do you feel singing the old SABBATH material? Anything you would rather not sing?
Ray Gillen: "I like all of it, truthfully. It is almost like an honor for me to sing the songs that Glenn sang on the album. I'm hoping I do him justice there. The Ozzy stuff? Well, we are BLACK SABBATH so we can't get away with not playing it. It isn't easy, I'll admit to that. Ozzy sang on such a kind of one level approach which suits those songs perfectly. It's not my style and it's a challenge. You know, I didn't actually know too much of the old BLACK SABBATH stuff, a lot of it was new to me."
Rockdetector.com: Really? You didn’t know "Paranoid"? C'mon.
Ray Gillen: "I knew of it, I had heard it plenty but it had never sank in because it just wasn't my thing. Sure, you hear BLACK SABBATH on college radio, in the car, at parties, but I never sat down to listen to a whole album. Dio, that's different. I love Dio with RAINBOW and BLACK SABBATH. The Dio songs I knew word for word even before this whole thing came along. Now I'm learning to love Ozzy in a strange kind of way by performing these songs night after night.”
Rockdetector.com: What do you make of the comparisons people are making between you and Ozzy?
Ray Gillen: "I don't understand it. We are so different. I don't try to look like him (Ray grabs his belly here!), I don't copy his stage moves and there is no way I can even begin to sound like Ozzy nor would I want to. In fact, if ever I begin to sound like Ozzy point me in the direction of a doctor! People should get over it, BLACK SABBATH moved on a long, long time ago. It's Tony's thing now, not Ozzy's.
"I've heard comments from Ozzy and Ronnie about this band and all I can say is, hey, it's Tony's band to do with what he likes. I think that's very unfair. You guys bailed out and, OK, I have some very big boots to fill. I admit to that. Ronnie, he's like a hero. Ozzy, he can say what he likes. I just don't care.
"The thing is this, SABBATH is a legend and it is easy to take a shot at, especially in times of change. I think all that will change for the better once we get a new record out."
Read the whole interview at Rockdetector.com.