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The meaning of the Black Sabbath song “N.I.B.”

Black Sabbath


The meaning of the Black Sabbath song “N.I.B.”

There is rock and roll music before and after Black Sabbath, since they were the ones who made things louder and heavier, showing the world a brand new music genre which would later be called Heavy Metal. Their self-titled debut album was recorded in a single twelve-hour session in October, 1969 being released only a few months later in February, 1970.


With some kind of spooky witch on the album cover and many songs talking openly about the devil, that record made people really scared and helped to build a mystique around the band. One of the most famous tracks of that album is “N.I.B.” and many fans gave a meaning to those letters, saying it meant “Nativity In Black”, for example. But that’s not right. So what is the meaning of “N.I.B.”?

The meaning of the Black Sabbath song “N.I.B.”

Well, according to the Sabbath’s bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler, it was only Bill Ward‘s nickname. After writing the song the bass player couldn’t come up with a title for the track.

The drummer Bill Ward had at the time a beard that looked like a pen nib because it was pointy. Although the lyrics have no connection at all with that, they thought it would be a cool title for the track and that’s why it’s called N.I.B.

In an interview with Music Radar in 2017, Butler recalled that the song began to be written on stage during their long jams during concerts. “We actually wrote N.I.B. jamming on stage. Sabbath would play these places in Europe and have to do eight sessions a day. We’d run out of material so we made N.I.B. last 45 minutes!”

“I used to do a 10-minute solo before we even started N.I.B., just to fill time. When we got to the studio I did a shorter version of the solo and the producer, Rodger Bain, suggested using a wah-wah to make it more interesting. I borrowed Tony’s pedal, simple as that,” Geezer Butler said.

With an incredible intro bass solo, the song became one of Sabbath’s biggest classics being always featured on their setlists, especially during the Ozzy Osbourne era with the group. However, the title “Nativity In Black” was used a few decades later as the name of two Sabbath tribute albums released in 1994 and 2000. On the first record the track N.I.B. was covered by the American band Ugly Kid Joe and on the second record, the track was covered by Primus with Ozzy on vocals.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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