War Pigs

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"War Pigs"
Song by Black Sabbath
from the album Paranoid
Released18 September 1970 (1970-09-18)[1]
Songwriter(s)Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward
Producer(s)Rodger Bain
Audio sample
"War Pigs"

"War Pigs" is an anti-war protest song by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath, released in 1970. It is the opening track from the band's second studio album Paranoid (1970).


The original title of "War Pigs" was "Walpurgis", dealing with the witches' sabbath.[4][5] "Walpurgis is sort of like Christmas for Satanists. And to me, war was the big Satan", said bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler. "It wasn't about politics or government or anything. It was Evil itself. So I was saying 'generals gathered in the masses / just like witches at black masses' to make an analogy. But when we brought it to the record company, they thought 'Walpurgis' sounded too Satanic. And that's when we turned it into 'War Pigs'. But we didn't change the lyrics, because they were already finished."[6]

During this time period, mandatory army service had recently ended in Britain but with the Vietnam War raging, many young men feared they'd be conscripted to fight in it. "That's what started this whole rebellion thing about not going to war for anybody", said Butler. "I was dreading being called up", the lyricist recalled.[7]

Prior to its official release, the band often altered the lyrics significantly when performing it live.[8] An example of this can be found on Ozzy Osbourne's compilation The Ozzman Cometh, which features an early version recorded by Black Sabbath for BBC Radio 1 on 26 April 1970.[9] While Butler has said that "War Pigs" is "totally against the Vietnam War, about how these rich politicians and rich people start all the wars for their benefit and get all the poor people to die for them",[10] vocalist Osbourne has stated that the group "knew nothing about Vietnam. It's just an anti-war song."[11] The song's instrumental outro is entitled "Luke's Wall" on US releases of the album, formatted as "War Pigs/Luke's Wall".[12]

Drummer Bill Ward's first memory of performing the song was at The Beat Club in Switzerland in 1968.[10] The band was required to play multiple sets every night and had little material in their repertoire at that point, so they would perform lengthy jam sessions to fill in the sets.[4] Co-writer and lead guitarist Tony Iommi has said that "War Pigs" originated from one of those jam sessions.[13]

The addition of the air-raid siren and the speeding up of the song's end were done by producer Rodger Bain and engineer Tom Allom. The band had no input in these decisions, though they were pleased with the results.[4]


Music journalist Martin Popoff has called the song an "ugly, antiwar classic now considered one of Sabbath's top two or three most enduring compositions".[8] Guitar World described the song as "the greatest HM song ever."[11] The magazine also included the song on their list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Solos" and ranked it in 56th place.[14] Steve Huey of AllMusic called the song a "standard".[15]

Kelefa Sanneh wrote, "What is memorable is the way Osbourne evokes not merely war's cost but its seductive appeal. Part of what made Black Sabbath seem new was a disinclination to uplifting, or hopeful, or self-righteous."[16]

"War Pigs" is widely considered one of Black Sabbath's greatest songs. In 2020, Kerrang ranked the song number four on their list of the 20 greatest Black Sabbath songs,[17] and in 2021, Louder Sound ranked the song number one on their list of the 40 greatest Black Sabbath songs.[18]

"War Pigs" was ranked the best Black Sabbath song by Rock - Das Gesamtwerk der größten Rock-Acts im Check.[19]

The song is notable for its publication in the American folk music magazine Broadside, which normally did not feature rock songs.[20]

The song's iconic guitar riff largely inspired that of Arctic Monkeys' 2014 single "Arabella", to the extent that the band often perform an interlude of the song, to enable front man Alex Turner to pick up his guitar in time for his solo.[21] In more recent times, when performing a live rendition of Arabella, the Arctic Monkeys often end the live performance of the song with a tease of the songs riff.

War Pigs was featured in the credits of the 2014 film 300: Rise of an Empire, a sequel to the 2007 film 300.

War Pigs was one of the 40 songs featured in the Music Monday series of the Newseum, and thus part of the Reporting Vietnam exhibit as a major musical reflection of the time.[22][23]

WWE has used the song for their NXT TakeOver: WarGames events as well as their Survivor Series WarGames event.

Several of the University of Arkansas' sports teams, nicknamed the Razorbacks, use War Pigs as their run-out/tunnel walk music. The song is also part of the regular repertoire of the Razorback Marching Band.

In 2023, Rolling Stone ranked the song number five on the list of the 100 greatest heavy metal songs.[24]


Black Sabbath in 1970. From left to right: Butler, Iommi, Ward, Osbourne.


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] Silver 200,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Steffen Hung. "Black Sabbath - War Pigs". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  2. ^ Irwin, William (18 September 2012). Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality. John Wiley & Sons. p. 202. ISBN 978-1-118-39761-9.
  3. ^ Stanley, Bob (13 September 2013). "Some Kind of Monster: Metal". Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. Faber & Faber. p. 567. ISBN 978-0-571-28198-5.
  4. ^ a b c Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-30681-9551.
  5. ^ Alexander, Phil (1998). Reunion (Media notes). Black Sabbath. Epic.
  6. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (30 July 2010). "Black Sabbath Bassist Geezer Butler Gets 'Paranoid'". Noisecreep. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  7. ^ "Geezer Butler Discusses Veganism, Religion, Politics, Surveillance, and Life Lessons". bryanreesman.com. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  8. ^ a b Popoff, Martin (2006). Black Sabbath: Doom Let Loose: An Illustrated History. ECW press. p. 32. ISBN 1-55022-731-9.
  9. ^ The Ozzman Cometh liner notes, Epic Records, 11 November 1997.
  10. ^ a b Popoff, Martin (2006). Black Sabbath: Doom Let Loose: An Illustrated History. ECW press. p. 33. ISBN 1-55022-731-9.
  11. ^ a b Clerk, Carol (2002). Diary of a Madman: Ozzy Osbourne: The Stories Behind the Songs. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-56025-4720.
  12. ^ As noted on the labels of early North American Warner Bros. Records pressings of Paranoid, (catalog no. WS 1887), released January 1971.
  13. ^ Orshoski, Wes (2 November 2002). "Rhino Bows Sabbath Fete with Two-Disc Anthology". Billboard.
  14. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: 51-100". Guitar World. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  15. ^ Huey, Steve. "Allmusic (((Paranoid > Overview)))". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  16. ^ Kelefa Sanneh (2021). Major Labels. Canongate. p. 13. ISBN 9781838855932.
  17. ^ Law, Sam (7 September 2020). "The 20 greatest Black Sabbath songs – ranked". Kerrang. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  18. ^ Brannigan, Paul (22 November 2021). "Black Sabbath's 40 greatest songs ever". Louder Sound. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  19. ^ Rehe, Christoph (2013). Rock – Das Gesamtwerk der größten Rock-Acts im Check: alle Alben, alle Songs. Ein eclipsed-Buch (in German). Sysyphus Sysyphus Verlags GmbH. ISBN 978-3868526462.
  20. ^ Kelly, John (11 November 2000). "Delivering a radical broadside". The Irish Times. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  21. ^ Vásquez, Aldo (30 May 2014). "Arctic Monkeys – Arabella & War Pigs (Black Sabbath) @ Austin City Limits 2013". Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 9 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  22. ^ "Vietnam Music Monday: "War Pigs"". Newseum. 30 November 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  23. ^ "Reporting Vietnam@NewseumDC". Spotify. 30 November 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  24. ^ "The 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 13 March 2023. Retrieved 10 July 2023.
  25. ^ "British single certifications – Black Sabbath – War Pigs". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 April 2022.

External links[edit]