The debate has been going on for over 30 years; who is the best lead singer of Van Halen? Sorry Gary Cherone, you’re not even in the running. David Lee Roth was a founding member of the band and was responsible for some of Van Halen’s most beloved earlier hits.
Meanwhile, Sammy Hagar came into the band at a time when they were going through a metamorphosis and fit in perfectly for their second act, bringing the band to even greater heights musically. I’ve always been in the Sammy Hagar camp, but that’s a debate for another day.
Following Hagar’s original departure in 1996 (he says he was fired, Eddie Van Halen says he quit), the band has been flipping back and forth between David Lee Roth reunions, Hagar reunions, and that 3-year period with Gary Cherone.
During that time, Eddie Van Halen’s battles with substance abuse and had gotten worse. In terms of the last reunion tour with Roth, Van Halen was sober and replaced bassist Michael Anthony with his son Wolfgang Van Halen. The infighting and legal battles—and everything else in between—are too long a list to even explain here.
What I really want to explore is what Sammy Hagar recently commented on during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
When asked if he would be up for another Van Halen reunion tour, he answered with a surprising yes... but on one condition. Hagar feels that along with having Michael Anthony back on bass, both he and David Lee Roth should be on stage singing their own songs each night. Hagar says they should do two songs each and swap every two songs to keep the show lively and competitive.
As a lifelong fan, this is a dream and a win-win for us all.
Van Halen burst onto the scene in 1978 with their incredible self-titled debut. Not only were fans introduced to Van Halen classics like Runnin’ With the Devil (above) and Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love, they were introduced to perhaps the best guitar player of his generation, Eddie Van Halen and his legendary guitar solo for the song Eruption.
The fact that a band had one track just as a guitar solo was a testament to the legacy that was about to start with Eddie and the guitar solo is still one of the best two minutes of guitar work laid down on tape.
With David Lee Roth, one of the best front men around at the time, the band took off with hit album after hit album culminating with their biggest album, 1984. With hits like Jump, Hot For Teacher, and Panama, the band was on top of the world. As their fame reached an all-time high, tensions between David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen did the same.
Eventually, Roth decided to pursue a solo career, leaving the band was left without a singer. Enter Sammy Hagar. Hagar already made a name for himself in the rock world as a solo artist and the singer for Montrose. After meeting Eddie, the two hit it off and Hagar joined the band. What happened next became what I feel are the band’s best series of albums.
Starting with 5150, Hagar and Van Halen became a great songwriting duo and led the band into their most successful time period. Right out of the gate the band gave us Van “Hagar” classics Dreams and Why Can’t This Be Love. While his guitar sound has always been unique to him, Eddie changed things up for his work with Hagar while still staying true to his roots.
Other hits like When It’s Love, Right Now, and Poundcake followed. After the highly underrated Balance album which includes my favorite Hagar fronted song, Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do), Hagar left the band amid controversy. Further along after a blink and you’ll miss it reunion with David Lee Roth, the band brought on Gary Cherone for an album and tour before parting ways due to lack of sales and musical differences.
After a long hiatus, the bad reemerged for a reunion with Hagar. By the end of the tour, Hagar quit once again because of Eddie’s drinking and attitude issues. Then, Roth returned again and the Van Halen brothers did a tour with their original singer for the first time since 1984. Michael Anthony was absent for the first time in the band's history, replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang.
Anthony’s loyalties to Hagar were rumored to be the reason behind the change. The band released a new album with Roth and a tour followed. Van Halen has been on hiatus since 2015 and no news has surfaced since. After Hagar’s recent interview, I completely agree with him that a reunion tour with both singers would be the right way to close out the band's legacy.
It would give fans what they’ve always truly wanted, and at the end of the day, the fans deserve their wish remaining loyal throughout Van Halen’s 40-year history of drama. 2018 will be the 40th anniversary of Van Halen’s debut album and a perfect time to do the tour we all want. Hagar is on board and I’m sure we can convince David Lee Roth the same.
Here’s to hoping Eddie can put ego and differences aside and give his fans one last amazing Van Halen moment!