Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler Opens Up About Battle with Depression
Speaking on NPR’s Bullseye With Jesse Thorn, Butler recalled his first time experiencing depression during the early days of Black Sabbath. From then on, it would recur throughout his life, leading him to seek medical advise — though depression was often stigmatized back then, and Butler’s condition went undiagnosed for years.
“I wasn’t depressed all the time,” the bassist said. “Just the occasional bout would come on me. At first, when it was getting really bad… Back then nobody ever said anything about depression or anything like that, and people were terrified to mention that you might be depressed because you automatically thought you were gonna be taken away to a mental hospital and be locked away forever. So you couldn’t talk about it to people in case that happened.”
He continued, “One day I got a really bad bout of depression and I went to the doctor and he said, ‘Oh, go down the pub and have a couple of pints. Or take the dog for a walk or something. You’ll be all right.’ And it was, like, ‘No, I’m not gonna be all right. It doesn’t work like that.’ And that kept happening.”
It drove Butler to the point where he wouldn’t talk with anyone about his depression, and he said he was often accused of being “moody and miserable” because of it.
Added Butler, “They’d be going, ‘Well, what’s the matter with you? What’s happened to you?’ And nothing bad had happened. So they were saying, ‘You’ve got all the money you want, you’ve got your house, you’ve got your cars and everything. What’s wrong with you? Cheer up.’ And they couldn’t understand that it’s nothing like that. You can have everything you can possibly want in the world, but when you get into those dark, depressing days, nothing matters. All you think about is, like, ‘So I’ll just end it or what.’ And luckily I used to come out of it.”
Finally, while living in St. Louis in the 1990s, Butler was diagnosed with clinical depression following “a bit of a nervous breakdown.”
“I went to this doctor, the usual doctor, and I just explained everything to him and he told me that I was clinically depressed and he put me on Prozac,” Butler said. “And after six weeks, I finally came out of the depression. And I thought, ‘Oh, yeah. This is what I’m supposed to feel like.’ And ever since that, I’ve been OK.”
For more personal anecdotes from the founding Black Sabbath bassist, check out Butler’s recently-released memoir, Into the Void: From Birth to Black Sabbath―And Beyond. You can purchase a copy of the book here.
Listen to Butler’s interview on NPR below.