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The Rockstar Ramblings: Roth vs. Hagar

With the long awaited Van Halen (with David Lee Roth) follow up to 1984 due out next year (and one would expect a world tour) this week we take a look at the classic David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar debate with a closing thought on how the pending album may affect this age old discussion.

David Lee Roth was with VH for their first six albums. Roth started with the VH brothers as mostly a cover band that grew into a sound that complimented Roth’s raspy voice with Eddie’s guitar. Van Halen I and II (the first two albums) are classics. Fair Warning, Women and Children First, and Diver Down would continue to build on the success of the first two albums, making VH a critical and popular success story. However, it was the album 1984 (and the #1 single Jump) that would catapult the band as one of the top in the world. Along with videos showcasing the party hardy attitude, several songs were hits and are still in radio rotation today. This was the last album with Roth at the helm. Soon after the VH brothers would recruit Sammy Hagar and put out albums 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and Balance. Musically the band was stronger with Hagar, leading to even more albums sold; however, the more mainstream sound and commercial success also led to over play of their music in commercials and more commercials.
VERDICT: David Lee Roth wins slightly. My opinion is that the music from the Roth years actual holds up better today than the Hagar years.

David Lee Roth was/is obnoxious and a show boat. Roth created a template (partly inspired by others) on how to be a rock star front man. Sammy Hagar, no light weight himself in the rock star department, couldn’t help but come across as more of a hard hat/lunch pail musician following Roth.
VERDICT: David Lee Roth takes the edge here. Without Roth there is no Vince Neil, no Bret Michaels. Okay, let’s call this one a draw.

THE INTANGIBLES (from videos)
Sammy Hagar wore Zubaz pants often in the early Van Hagar videos. Roth was an on-stage ninja.
VERDICT: There are no winners here.

David Lee Roth had major success with the EP Crazy From The Heat and albums Eat’em and Smile and Skyscraper. After these initial solo releases, a significant drop off, often left trying to put out albums unoriginal and lacking the superstar attitude that made Dave famous. Sammy Hagar was already a success as a solo artist prior to VH, creating the greatest driving song of all time: I Can’t Drive 55. After VH Hagar would continue making tequila inspired music and then form super group Chickenfoot to much success.
VERDICT: Sammy Hagar is the clear winner here.

Sammy Hagar: The Red Rocker, David Lee Roth: Diamond Dave
VERDICT: Diamonds are forever.

Taking a break from his solo career, Roth became a paramedic, Vegas lounge singer, and the next (albeit briefly) heir apparent to Howard Stern. Recently DLR has released some of his artwork he painted over the years. Sammy Hagar’s interests include Tequila, owner of Cabo Wabo Cantinas, and Tequila.
VERDICT: Sammy Hagar, by a swig.

Over a decade ago there were many Sammy Hagar supporters, in my bar room discussions, more were fans of Sammy with VH than David Lee Roth. It was always close, it’s like picking John Stamos or Bob Saget, it’s really preference of style. Over time there has been a shift due to the original six Van Halen albums, aging like fine wine while the Hagar VH albums, well, continue to remind us (at least me) of Pepsi and Buick automobiles. To me, this is the interesting point. With the pending album David Lee Roth is putting his Van Halen legacy on the line. Should the album be a success it will cement him as the true front man of Van Halen, if it flops, then we may have another twenty years of Roth vs. Hagar, the same way we still have the Uncle Jessie vs. Danny Tanner debates.
VERDICT: David Lee Roth (so far)

Rockstar_Scribbler's avatar

David S. Grant (aka Rockstar_Scribbler) is the author of several books including Rock Stars, Happy Hour, and Corporate Porn. For more information please go to www.rockstarbooks.net or www.davidsgrant.com. You can also follow David on Twitter @david_S_grant.

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9 Comments on "The Rockstar Ramblings: Roth vs. Hagar"

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50bmg's avatar


1. 50bmg writes:

DLR. Always has been, always will be.

# Aug 20, 2010 @ 2:45 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Dying_Isis's avatar


2. Dying_Isis writes:

I like the Roth era better too but all the cover songs they did annoy me.

F.U.C.K. was a great album with Sammy though.

But I'm looking forward to the new album, Me Wise Magic from like '96 or "97 was a really good track with Dave. I hope it's more stuff like that

# Aug 20, 2010 @ 4:11 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Dan1979's avatar


3. Dan1979 writes:

Good article, but Van Halen sold more albums with Roth. The first album and 1984 sold 10 millions copies, so those two combined sold about as much as Van Hagar's entire output.

# Aug 20, 2010 @ 10:28 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
brandedcfh420's avatar


4. brandedcfh420 writes:

The reason roth era VH sold more was because there were more stupid dumbasses back then who ate up anything that someone else told them was good music. DLR is worse than dave mustaine when it comes to ego! DLR thought he was the king of the world but he was the joker!

Sammy Hagar proved he is a better musician and better frontman, IMO, during the van hagar years. He allowed the other band members to have their time in the spotlight while DLR did everything he could to steal the light from the rest of VH.

# Aug 20, 2010 @ 10:55 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
5. Stan Halen writes:

Truth is VH had two of the greatest front men to ever grace rock and roll. They can't be compared blow for blow. Sammy is a much better singer, and DLR is a much better showman.

They all rocked! They all still do! Can't wait for the new album!!! Agreed - Me Wise Magic is the style they will hopefully go for.

# Aug 20, 2010 @ 11:49 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
50bmg's avatar


6. 50bmg writes:

I like Sammy but the Hagar era was too poppy for me.

I loved Women And Children First and Fair Warning.

If you only get into bands with frontmen that aren't d***s then you are missing out on some great tunes. Both Dave's are tools but I love both bands music. DLR's screams are epic and I'd put his range up against Sammy's (when both were in their prime) any day of the week. Sammy's a better axeman but who cares, it's not about the best 2nd guitar in VH.

# Aug 21, 2010 @ 11:37 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
7. no writes:

I'd take neither of them cause im not a fa**ot wearing tights and a jean jacket listening to 70's and 80's pop rock

# Aug 21, 2010 @ 7:58 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
50bmg's avatar


8. 50bmg writes:

Trolls are so boring.....

# Aug 22, 2010 @ 1:54 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
9. rockstar scribbler is not very intelligent writes:

Amazingly high level of journalism here... the band was "musically stronger" with hagar? that doesn't even mean anything. more melodic, yes. but musically stronger? " led to overplay of their music in commercials and more commercials"? wtf? the band has allowed two songs to be played in commercials - right now for crystal pepsi ('91
?) and you really got me for nissan (2001?) - that's it. both commercials received very brief/limited play. All this in just the first main paragraph.

# Aug 23, 2010 @ 5:30 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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