Sammy vs. Dave: And the Better Van Halen Vocalist is…

music musings, beaverdamusa.comI have avoided this topic for my blog for a while now because I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how to present it, and it would probably be long enough for two blogs.  The topic? David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar.  For the record, we will treat Van Halen III (with Gary Cherone) like a tequila-infused night at Panama City Beach’s Club La Vela.  Deny. Deny. Deny.

First some background – Van Halen has been my favorite band since their self-titled debut album was released in 1978.  I have been to probably close to 30 shows since the Fair Warning tour and often went to multiple shows on the same tour.  I have always been a fan of Eddie’s guitar work, Alex’s drumming, and Michael Anthony’s bass, and even DLR’s frontman antics for a while – then I got older.

When Sammy joined the band, he not only brought one of the best rock & roll voices, but he brought musicianship.  On his first tour, he was even gutsy enough to play guitar on stage with Eddie and even trade licks on “Only One Way to Rock”.  I was hooked on the Sammy era of Van Halen.  Looking back on the DLR era was like looking back at your high school shenanigans – they were childish and you wondered what the hell you were thinking.  All of a sudden, the martial arts moves, the sword twirling, and “I’m so f’ed up, I forgot the words” became an annoyance.  The sad thing about all the comings and goings of lead singers is that it keeps probably the greatest rock guitar player of all time from putting music out.

Eddie and Alex basically stayed in obscurity and didn’t put any new music out.  Sammy went on and put out several solo albums, created a new group called Chickenfoot (which rocks by the way), continued to tour, and just recently formed a new band called the Circle.  He would occasionally have Michael Anthony playing with him.  Eddie then kicked Michael Anthony out of Van Halen and replaced him with his son, Wolfgang.  While one can understand wanting to play with your son, bass players can be replaced, but the distinctive backing vocals of Michael Anthony can’t be replaced.

If you haven’t heard, Van Halen has released a live album recorded in Tokyo back in 2012.  Eddie was quoted in an article as saying they record basically every show, but they let DLR go through and pick the best vocal show.  Did they “fix” some vocals in post-production?  Who knows?  I do know that in 2012, they cancelled half the tour and played the Tokyo show after several weeks off.  Based on the Nashville show (which was about five shows before the tour ended), DLR’s voice needed rest or even retirement.

Van Halen kicked off their tour with an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show where they performed on Hollywood Boulevard.  About that same time, Sammy releases a live cut of the Circle playing the Sammy-era classic “When It’s Love”.  It provides an opportunity to compare both lead singers (much like the highly-touted Sam and Dave tour).  Sammy’s voice still sounds great while sadly, DLR has become even more clownish in the way he acts on stage, his voice is shot, and he skips words on basically every song.  Between DLR’s crappy vocals and the missing sound of Michael Anthony, just give me a karaoke track of Eddie playing and I will be happy.  However, I will let you decide:

Musing in Nashville


P.S.  For EVH fans, the Van Halen New Desk ( has a great article on how DLR cut his nose on Fallon ().  The best part of the article was the fan video which captured about five minutes of EVH “noodling “while they kill time waiting on DLR to get his nose taped.

About Zach Clayton

Zach Clayton started Music Musings in 2013, but isn’t a stranger to music. While he may be a mild mannered accountant by day, he always has tunes going and forces his staff at work to play music trivia when they enter his office. He is a self-proclaimed lover of all music genres with over 3,500 songs in his iPod. Zach’s first concert was Eddie Money in Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym in 1979 and claims to have seen Van Halen (all three incarnations) over 25 times. There have only been one or two years since 1979 that Zach hasn’t been to a concert. He also has the uncanny knack of getting to know several folks in the music scene – both out front and behind the scenes. Zach is in the process of indoctrinating his two boys into the rock and roll way by exposing them to concerts and various music while holding them hostage in his truck screaming the mantra – “rap is crap!”


  1. Jessie says:

    I’m voting Sammy… you may hate me for that.

  2. Zach Clayton says:

    Jessie – I am in the Sammy camp. I do believe each have their place in the band history. Thanks for reading.

  3. Bryan Hall says:

    For some reason I can’t get back to the FB post (most likely because FB sucks), so I’m replying here.

    Sorry it’s taken so long to respond. I have mixed feelings on the subject. Right now all I listen to is the Dave era stuff. Honestly I’ve always liked it better. When Sammy joined it was a nice change, but it wasn’t Van Halen. It was a super group and should have been called Van Hagar. They were great and at that point I was tired of Dave like a lot of other people. (Side note – I’ve read Sammy’s book and his story is amazing. I highly recommend it.) I was a fan of Sammy before he joined VH and the guy can sing his ass off, even today.

    I’ve seen both incarnations live multiple times, the first being the Fair Warning tour. Even though Dave was drunk, really didn’t sing much and basically just jumped around a lot, the show was unbelievable. The lights, the volume, everything about it was unlike anything I had ever seen and I was absolutely amazed that Eddie was in fact playing everything I had heard on those records because I really thought there was some studio trickery involved.

    I’m including a link to an interview with John Shanks who produced ADKOT and he really verifies what I believe about Dave. Without him, none of this would have happened. He took all of those guitar riffs and made songs out of them. And I feel like they’re better songs than anything they did with Sammy. Dave gets a lot of crap and some of it is deserved, but having heard a few stories about him from one of his engineers, the guy works his ass off.

    I do agree with you on the recent live album. I don’t know what they were thinking. I have however heard some great reviews on their new tour and I think Dave is really trying to be a better singer.

    I also agree about Michael Anthony. I totally get Eddie wanting to play with his son and the kid is extremely good, but I really don’t get the animosity towards Michael. He seems like a great guy.

    Here’s the link-

    We should get together sometime and discuss music and we definitely should go play music trivia together sometime. We could mop the floor with these amateurs.

    Talk to you later,

    • Zach Clayton says:

      Totally agree on the assertion that VH wouldn’t have broke without a flashy, in your face singer like DLR. I guess I just got tired of the swagger he has and tries to have today. Someone needs to remind him that he isn’t 25 anymore.

      BTW, I have read Sammy’s book. The dude has a business mind in a rock & roll body.

      See you soon. BTW, a BT blog is going to happen one day.


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