SAMMY HAGAR On DAVID LEE ROTH: 'The Guy Sang So Bad Last Time He Was Doing Shows, It Was Embarrassing'
April 22, 2023
Sammy Hagar, who, along with fellow ex-VAN HALEN frontman David Lee Roth, spent the summer of 2002 co-headlining the laboriously titled "Sammy Hagar And David Lee Roth Tour 2002: Song For Song, The Heavyweight Champs Of Rock And Roll", is once again dissing Diamond Dave's oversize ego and deteriorating singing voice.
Hagar reflected on the 2002 run of shows during a recent appearance on Steve-O's "Wild Ride!" podcast. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "At that time [Roth] didn't have a solo career, really. I mean, he did, but he wasn't selling out. I was selling out arenas. I was selling out amphitheaters as Sammy Hagar with the WABOS. And I had a solo career.
"Ask Mick Jagger. Ask Robert Plant. You can be the biggest band in the world and you can't necessarily have a solo career," he continued. "But I had a solo career. So when I joined the big band, I went back to my solo career, I'm good. I still sell a lot of tickets. Dave, he had that sort of a big album, one kind of a big album, but he didn't have a solo career. He was playing small places. So when he came in with me, he was making, like, 25 grand a night, I was making 150 grand a night, and they said, 'Oh, you guys are gonna make the same money. Dave gets to make 150.' I said, 'He ain't fucking made 150 in his life except in VAN HALEN.' But I said, 'I've gotta do this.' So I bent over backwards. And he still always tried to fuck with the rules. He's not a fun guy. He doesn't play well with others. I'm not sure what his problem is… He just always is about, 'How can I make this guy look bad?' And not just me — in life. He's a chest-beating motherfucker. And God bless him, 'cause the early stuff is frickin' great. I personally, I've tried to say… [I thought] he'd be a fun guy to know. But he ain't like that. He ain't like his persona. When you get around him, he ain't that guy. He's some other cat. [Laughs]"
Hagar went on to praise Roth's skills as an entertainer, saying: "He's a showman. Hey, listen, I'm a showman too. But that's his gig. He doesn't care about singing. If he did, he'd take care of his voice or he'd take voice lessons and get warmed up and do something. 'Cause the guy sang so bad last time he was doing shows, it was embarrassing… But he's a showman. Everything's show, show, show, show, show, show, show. And he doesn't care about his voice, which drives me nuts, man. I care more about my voice than I do my dick. If my dick didn't work a couple of times, I'd be okay with it — I'd be bummed out — but if my voice fucks up onstage, I'm fucking bummed, man."
Hagar replaced Roth in VAN HALEN in 1985 and recorded four studio albums with the band — "5150", "OU812", "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" and "Balance" — all of which topped the U.S. chart. The highest-charting Roth-led VAN HALEN album was a No. 2, and it took until "1984" to achieve that. (2012's "A Different Kind Of Truth" also landed at No. 2.)
Back in October 2021, Hagar said that he had "no problem" with Roth, telling "The Mike & Carla Morning Show" on the 96.3 KKLZ radio station: "Him and I don't even have a feud. To be honest with you, I have no problem with Dave. I don't know what he's got going with me, but I think he always feels competitive. I think he feels like he has to raise his flag, like, 'I'm VAN HALEN.' 'Cause I had a solo career before VAN HALEN. I was in MONTROSE before VAN HALEN. I've had CHICKENFOOT. Dave has got VAN HALEN, so I think he has to hold on to that kind of tight. But I don't care about that. If someone said, 'Oh, I never knew you [were] in VAN HALEN,' I'd say, 'Eh…'"
In June 2021, Hagar blasted Roth, saying his voice "hasn't aged well" and describing the original VAN HALEN singer's onstage persona as "totally bullshit." He told Brazil's "Inside With Paulo Baron" Internet show: "[David is] a real character. He's a showman. He's all show. I enjoy him. But you talk about cringing. I can't imagine how he feels when he looks at some of them old videos, the way he was dancing and moving, and the way he was singing live sometimes. I don't know how he feels about all that, but I don't think he cares. The difference between him and I [is] I sincerely care — I care about everything I do and I care how it affects people and I care what they think. I care that it touches them and it makes them happy. And what is important to me is enlightening and elevating people spiritually and making them happy and making them have big dreams, making them want to be better themselves. And that's my goal with everything I do — is to bring that to people and change their life, if I can. I don't think he cares about anything like that. And that's the difference between our presence. He's very much into himself, very much into being a showman and doesn't really care. I don't know what he cares about; I really don't. I don't know him. I have no idea who that guy is; I don't think anyone does. But he entertains me. I enjoy watching him do stupid shit."
Asked what he thinks when he sees the way David presents himself to the public, Sammy said: "Well, the first thing I'd say is I look at him and I think, 'Wow. He's a strange person. He's a strange character.' He's not what he's saying he is; he's pretending. He's totally bullshit. Everything he does is thought up and it's an image. It's nothing to do with who he is; he's not exposing who and what he is. And I know this for a fact. I knew that the first time I saw him. I said, 'This guy, he's putting on an image, putting on a show.' He goes back home and goes in his house, and he's a whole different guy — nothing to do with that guy [you see on stage]. He's not honest about his image and his performance. That's what I see when I see him; that's how I feel. But I tried to be friends."
Referring to the time when he and Roth teamed up for the co-headlining tour in 2002, Sammy continued: "When we did our together, I thought it was gonna be so much fun. I thought, 'If he's anything like he claims to be, we're gonna have a good time.' But he wasn't. He was the worst guy to be around. He wasn't ever around. He hides out. You never see him. He puts on this whole big front and comes out, 'I'm here. David Lee Roth is here,' and then he goes and hides again. I don't think he's happy. He's never been married; never had a relationship; never had children. It's, like, man, how do you live like that? I don't know. I'm a family man. And I love women — I love women and children… He hasn't aged well — his voice. [Laughs] I don't know. It's hard."
According to Hagar, he has tried a number of times to be respectful to Roth, particularly because of David's immeasurable contribution to VAN HALEN's legacy.
"I used to not wanna cause trouble," he said. "First, in the old days, before I was in VAN HALEN, I ripped him through the fucking coals when I [did] the press, before I ever was in that band. And then when I joined the band, I tried to be nice. And then when I left the band, I tried to be nice about him. And then we did our together, and then I fucking said, 'Fuck this guy. He's an asshole. You can't get along with him. He's no fun. He's full of shit.' And then now, after [VAN HALEN guitarist] Eddie's [Van Halen] death, I feel, once again, he's part of the VAN HALEN legacy and he's important. So I wouldn't wanna ruin anything to do with what he brought to that legacy. I want VAN HALEN to go down as one of the greatest rock bands of all time — but not just my [era]; Dave's era [as well]. I want Eddie to be the legend and get the respect that he deserves, and the only way to preserve that is by being kind about the past. And, like in my [2011's autobiography, 'Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock'], like I said, that's the only thing I would probably [change in the book if I was writing it now is I would] soften it up [as it relates to Eddie]. But it's too late — it is what it is. And it's honest. So I'm not lying, I'm not backpedaling — nope, nope. It's all true. But God rest his soul. He brought a lot to this planet, to this business of rock and roll, Eddie Van Halen did. And Dave was a part of it. It's too bad what he's become. [Laughs] But that's different. It's not VAN HALEN anymore."
In November 2020, Eddie's son Wolfgang revealed that his father had contemplated a "kitchen-sink tour" that would have included classic-era bassist Michael Anthony, as well as vocal turns from both Hagar and Roth. There was even talk about bringing back Gary Cherone, who sang with VAN HALEN on one poorly received album, 1998's "Van Halen III".
Eddie died in October 2020 at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California. The iconic VAN HALEN axeman passed away from complications due to cancer, his son confirmed.
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