In 1985, in the middle of a successful career, David Lee Roth quit Van Halen. He was replaced by Sammy Hagar, but Roth returned to the band in 2007. So naturally, fans want to know, did David Lee Roth ever sing Sammy Hagar songs?
Here’s what I know from seeing Van Halen shortly after Roth’s return:
David Lee Roth has never sung a song with Van Halen that was originally written with Sammy Hagar. However, early in Van Halen’s career, they did once cover a song by the band Montrose for which Sammy Hagar was the lead singer.
Of course, Hagar sang with the band for 11 years, and in that time, produced many hits and grew a dedicated fan base. Even Hagar left and came back once with Gary Cherone filling in briefly.
But what songs did Van Halen play with Roth back in the band?
And did the fans get upset at the lack of Hagar songs? And for that matter, did Sammy Hagar sing David Lee Roth songs during his time in the band?
Let’s answer all the questions!
What David Lee Roth songs did Sammy Hagar sing in Van Halen?
Sammy Hagar sang many David Lee Roth songs after replacing him as Van Halen’s lead singer, including their Kink’s cover You Really Got Me, Jump, Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Panama, and many more.
But naturally, as his catalog of songs grew larger, they did scale back on the number of David Lee Roth songs performed. By the early 1990s, Van Halen sets often only included 2 or 3 songs originally sung by Roth.
With Sammy Hagar, Van Halen released their first number one album: 5150.
This gave them some new material for their tour, but there was no chance that Van Halen wouldn’t be singing the songs fans had come to love. And all their past songs were David Lee Roth songs.
If Hagar wanted to be a part of Van Halen, he had no choice but to sing Roth-era songs.
The very first DLR song Hagar sang was You Really Got Me, which was originally a Kinks cover. The biggest DLR song for Hagar to sing was Jump, the band’s only number-one single and their most popular song.
At first, Hagar refused to sing Jump on stage.
It isn’t clear why, but perhaps he felt intimidated by the band’s most popular song being from the Roth-era. Eventually, he realized there was no way to get out of adding Jump to the touring setlist, and he embraced the song.
Other Roth-era songs on the Van Halen setlist with Hagar were:
- Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
- Running With the Devil
Hagar inserted his identity into these songs to make them feel more like his own.
He played around with certain guitar riffs, and he swung from the stage scaffolding during performances to display his high-energy personality.
Check out this 1992 setlist to get an idea of what songs were played during a Van Hagar set.
The first Van Halen album featuring Sammy Hagar was released today in 1986. Who do you prefer as the bands frontman – David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? #80s #VanHalen #DiamondDave #80srock pic.twitter.com/m5Kz0QyvGA
— LandOfThe80s (@landofthe80s) March 24, 2021
Why did David Lee Roth refuse to sing Sammy Hagar songs?
David Lee Roth refused to sing Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen songs due to ego, as he considered himself to be their only true frontman. But since Sammy Hagar also had a stronger voice and wider range, it is also possible David Lee Roth was incapable of singing those songs well.
Van Halen had a brief reunion with David Lee Roth as their lead singer in 1996.
Then, a longer reunion from 2007–2020. During all this time, DLR refused to sing any Van Halen songs from the Hagar-era.
In an interview, Roth was asked if he would ever consider singing the Sammy Hagar songs. He responded: “Well, there’s a credibility issue there. Good, bad, or in the middle, you know Roth means it; the other guy doesn’t.”
Roth saw himself as the only true Van Halen frontman. Even though Hagar was with the band for 11 years, Roth always seemed to consider him a poser.
Roth was a bit egotistical—as most rock stars are.
And having to sing a song from the Hagar-era would’ve been a massive blow to his pride more than anything else. And that’s even truer if he wasn’t able to sing them as well as Hagar (which would likely be the case).
He wanted the band to be exactly as it was when he left: all eyes on him.
David Lee Roth OR Sammy Hagar? #VanHalen https://t.co/h3h6tbaiWQ pic.twitter.com/Wi6WOrl99R
— 🎸Return of Rock🎸 (@ReturnofR) June 21, 2020
Did fans want to hear Van Hagar-era songs once David Lee Roth rejoined the band?
The majority of hard-core Van Halen fans prefer David Lee Roth as the singer. But over Hagar’s 11 years with the band, his unique sound and style brought new fans, and these fans may have wanted Roth to sing the songs they had learned to love over the course of many years.
By the time David Lee Roth was reunited with Van Halen in 2007, Sammy Hagar had developed a fan base. And there were some fans who wanted David Lee Roth to sing Van Hagar-era songs.
Sammy Hagar sang for Van Halen for 11 years.
At first, fans were upset that Roth had left, and they didn’t want to like Hagar. But 11 years is a long time. Long enough for people to let go of their emotions and accept a new normal.
Roth will always have more fans than Hagar, but that doesn’t mean that Hagar didn’t have any.
Still, most Van Halen fans favor the Roth-era. Since they were the majority, Roth never had much pressure to sing the Hagar-era songs. There also wasn’t any need to.
Roth’s time with the band had generated enough musical content that they could fill up hours of concert time without ever needing to turn to a song from the Van Hagar-era.
Both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar had great songs during their time as the lead singer but there’s no competition. David Lee Roth will always be Van Halen’s vocal king. pic.twitter.com/QrT6BRFMwB
— teatime75 (@teatime75) March 24, 2021
Did Van Halen cover a Sammy Hagar song when they were younger?
When Van Halen was still a new band, back in 1974, they did a cover of the Montrose song Make it Last, which was written by Sammy Hagar when he was the lead singer of Monstrose.
Sammy Hagar was a talented musical artist.
In 1973 he was discovered by the guitarist Ronnie Montrose. Ronnie was putting together a band called Montrose and wanted Hagar to join them and be their lead singer.
During this time, the band released a few singles, one of them being Make it Last. This song reached some level of popularity and eventually caught the eye of Van Halen.
The band was apparently impressed with Hagar back in 1974 because they did a cover of this song.
There was no way any of the members of Van Halen could predict what would happen in the many years to come.
David Lee Roth could never have known the rivalry that would develop between Hagar and himself.
He would later refuse to sing any songs associated with Sammy Hagar. However, back in 1974, Roth technically sang a Sammy Hagar song.
Because life is too short to argue over David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar. RIP Eddie. pic.twitter.com/laLWtDwKcO
— lemmyisgod (@lemmy6is6god6) October 6, 2020
Are David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar friends?
David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar are not friends and have developed an intense rivalry over the years. However, most of the rivalry and negativity comes from David Lee Roth towards Hagar and not from Hagar, though Hagar has been forced to defend himself on occasion.
David Lee Roth was bound to be bitter at whoever ended up replacing him as the Van Halen frontman. It just so happened that that man was Sammy Hagar.
That’s ironic given David Lee Roth quit Van Halen and wasn’t fired.
When Roth returned to Van Halen, he was asked about Sammy Hagar. He took aim at Hagar’s time with the band and said:
“And that’s why it [Hagar-era Van Halen] sold half as well. Literally, Midas Bible half. Never did better than half.”
Roth believed himself to be the better frontman and didn’t waste any time attacking Hagar’s sales.
Sammy Hagar didn’t take any of Roth’s insults lying down. In an interview, Hagar said, “The difference between Dave and I in that band, besides all the other million things, is that he can’t sing any of the ‘Van Hagar’-era songs…”
So here, he is criticizing the fact that Roth refused to sing his songs while he was willing to sing Roth’s songs. He is also making the claim that he is a better singer and that Roth would be unable to match his vocal range.
The irony here is that Hagar is probably right.
That time Roth and Hagar toured together
In 2002, to everyone’s surprise, Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth decided to do a joint tour with Van Halen. In the shows, they would take turns headlining while remaining offstage for the other’s songs.
But initially, Hagar suggested they do a few songs together during the tour.
But Hagar noted that “Right at the start, he (DLR) rejected my suggestion that we sing a few songs together and make it a friendly thing”. And every night, Dave would make an excuse as to why he couldn’t do any duets.
This tour was as disastrous as one might expect. Hagar and Roth were constantly bickering and found themselves unable to work together.
Hagar himself commented on that tour, “Boy, I hate to ever say I’m sorry I did something, so I can’t say I’m sorry I did it,” he said.
“But I certainly wouldn’t do it again, let’s put it like that.”
Sammy Hagar might have been hesitant to sing Roth-era songs, but in the end, he accepted their importance and sang many of them on stage.
David Lee Roth, by comparison, considered himself to be the only true lead singer for Van Halen. He refused to sing Hagar-era songs because he felt they weren’t true to the band.
Hagar grew his own fan base during the 11 years he sang for Van Halen. Many of Hagar’s fans wanted Roth to continue to sing Hagar-era songs when he rejoined Van Halen.
And ironically, back in 1974, Van Halen performed a cover of the Sammy Hagar song Make it Last, originally done in 1973 by Hagar’s band Montrose.
Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth are not friends. They have a bitterness towards each other that hasn’t diminished over the years.
Photo which requires attribution:
Sammy Hagar & David Lee Roth June 14, 2002 by H. Michael Karshis is licensed under CC2.0