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Who is she - the woman on the cover of the legendary Black Sabbath album

At a point near the centre stands a black-clad woman with long hair and a grim expression. The blood-chilling cover made many wonder who this woman was.....

The woman on the cover of the Black Sabbath album - who she is: history and facts

The release in 1970 of the debut album Black Sabbath changed the music industry forever. The album of the same name is considered by many to be the first true heavy metal in history! It features seven thrilling tracks, each framed by eerie vocals Ozzy Osbourne and is filled with deep yet rumbling guitar phrases Tony Iommi.

First track on side A, also called "Black Sabbath", opens with the sounds of a violent thunderstorm. When you hear the rain pouring down and thunder rumbling, and a church bell ringing in the distance... Undeniably: you are already enchanted. The first guitar riff is almost 40 seconds long, and Iommi plays three chords in succession, which the musicians call "Sabbath". "the devil's newt." (or "devil's interval"). It was rumoured that this sequence was forbidden by the Catholic Church, which more commonly referred to it as a "diabolus in musica" or "the devil in the music."

"Black Sabbath" was released in Europe 13 February 1970and then in June in the US. Those who browsed music shops that year must have seen the album, and the first thing they noticed was the cover artwork. The cover of the record gives a visual representation of the music contained within, which is as chilling as it is hard-hitting (in our case). The cover of "Black Sabbath" features a picture of a autumn landscape with dead bushes in the foreground, which is surrounded by a large dead tree on the right. In the background is a watermill. And at a point near the centre stands a woman dressed in black with long hair and a grim expression. The blood-chilling cover made many wonder who this woman was....

The story behind the cover design

Black Sabbath album cover.
Black Sabbath album cover.

Rolling Stone magazine noted 50th anniversary the release of "Black Sabbath" in 2020, praising the release as a leader of what later became known as heavy metal. On this occasion, the publication discussed the cover of this iconic album at length, noting that the combination of landscape and lyrics fuelled the theory that the band members were worshippers of the Devil himself!

To get the full picture, journalists spoke to the man behind the iconic cover, namely the photographer Keith McMillan. He talked about how the photograph was taken in front of the a 500-year-old watermill in Oxfordshire. The photo shoot started at 4am and at first McMillan tried to use dry ice to create the effect he was looking for. When that failed, he resorted to a smoke machine.

Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath

In the title song, the lyric refers to. "a figure in black pointing at me."which is very similar to the woman McMillan used as a model for the film. After the first attempt to give her sexy look, the photographer decided to forgo any risky shots and just take a picture of her in a black cloak.

"Any sexuality got rid of a darker mood," he told Rolling Stone.

The model was Louise Livingstone. And at that point she was just a teenager.....

"Witch!" - the accusations against Louise and her fate.

Louise Livingstone
Louise Livingstone

Fans of the just-released album had their own theories about the cover. Soon rumours started to spread that the woman on the cover was a real witch! There were also those who speculated that the gloomy beauty in black was himself Ozzy Osbourneand dressed in women's clothes. Another rumour (the most mystical) was that the woman was not actually there when the photograph was taken, and that her silhouette mysteriously appeared after the film had been processed. On the inside was a picture inverted crosswhich only fuelled rumours of the band's links to the Devil...

The inside of the Black Sabbath album cover
The inside of the Black Sabbath album cover

As for her role on the album cover, Louise Livingstone remembered that she had been in place before dawn that morning.

"I remember it was very cold," she told Rolling Stone.

Louise Livingstone
Louise Livingstone today.

She was almost certain that McMillan was talking about the Black SabbathBut the name of the band meant nothing to her at the time. After gracing the iconic album, Louise made occasional appearances on various British TV shows.

She is currently producing her own electronic music under her brand name Indreba.

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