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In the eyes of countless hard rock fans, David Lee Roth is the prototypical frontman. With a flamboyant, larger-than-life stage presence and a party hearty/surfer dude persona (not to mention his acrobatic leaps, long mane of blond hair, and skintight spandex outfits), David Lee Roth was an integral part of Van Halen's meteoric rise to global dominance from 1978 through 1984.
Born on October 10, 1955, in Bloomington, IN, Roth was introduced to music at an early age, via his father's affinity for Al Jolson, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Prima. By the dawn of his teenage years, Roth's family had relocated to California, and by the early '70s, Roth had become a major rock fan (Led Zeppelin, Black Oak Arkansas, Grand Funk, ZZ Top, Alice Cooper, etc.).
Roth was soon singing in local bands, including the Red Ball Jets, who would play shows along with another up-and-coming rock band from Pasadena, CA - Mammoth. The members of Mammoth, which included brothers Eddie (guitar) and Alex (drums) Van Halen, would often borrow Roth's PA system for their gigs, and a friendship was struck up.
Soonafter, David Lee Roth was asked to join forces with the Van Halen brothers, who had enlisted a new bassist as well, Michael Anthony. The new quartet decided on a name change by the mid-'70s as they played the Sunset Strip - Van Halen (reportedly Roth's idea).
By 1977, the quartet was signed to Warner Bros, and 1978 saw the release of their landmark self-titled debut, one of rock's all-time great recordings. Mixing heavy metal riffs with punk's fury, Van Halen was onto a whole new sound, which resulted in the band taking the world by storm.
The band issued a string of classic mega-selling albums (1979's Van Halen II, 1980's Women & Children First, 1981's Fair Warning, 1982's Diver Down, and two years later, 1984), while becoming a major arena-headlining concert draw in the process.
Just as the group had hit their peak and appeared they could do no wrong, David Lee Roth issued a four-track solo EP in 1985, Crazy From the Heat, with rumors swirling that the group was bickering behind the scenes and that Roth was going to make a major motion picture. Still, it was a shock to rock fans everywhere when Roth left Van Halen later that year (Van Halen would soldier on with Sammy Hagar filling Roth's spot) - leading to a war of words in the press.
When his plans for the movie proved to be a bust, Roth immediately formed a top-notch solo band, consisting of ex-Talas bassist Billy Sheehan (often called "the Eddie Van Halen of bass"), ex-Frank Zappa guitarist Steve Vai, and ex-Maynard Ferguson drummer Gregg Bissonette.
In 1986, David Lee Roth issued his first full-length solo effort, Eat Em & Smile, which was another hit and gave way to another sold-out tour.
Roth had also become a master of creating hilarious and highly original music videos (featuring a wide assortment of wacky characters), especially Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher," and Roth's solo clips "California Girls," "Just a Gigolo," "Yankee Rose," and "Goin' Crazy." But while Roth's new solo band seemed to be on their way to a very promising future, the lineup began to splinter with each subsequent release (1988's Skyscraper, 1991's A Little Ain't Enough), until Roth was the only remaining member.
With interest waning, David Lee Roth attempted to branch out musically on his experimental 1994 release, Your Filthy Little Mouth (produced by Nile Rodgers), but it was met with a cool reception, as was Roth's attempt to break into the Vegas circuit around the same time.
By 1996, Van Halen had parted ways with Hagar, leading to an onslaught of rumors that a Roth/Van Halen reunion was in the works. The rumor appeared to become reality on September 4, 1996, when Van Halen and Roth appeared together at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York to present an award.
Despite the fact that they had recorded several new songs the previous summer (two of which would appear on their forthcoming Best Of: Vol. 1 collection), the reunion was short-lived - Eddie and David Lee Roth got into a near fist fight backstage on the night of the awards show, as relations soured once again when it became known that Van Halen tricked David Lee Roth into thinking that he was back in the band (meanwhile, they had secretly hired ex-Extreme singer Gary Cherone a few months prior).
Undeterred, David Lee Roth penned a tell-all biography, 1997's Crazy From the Heat, and issued his best solo album in years, 1998's back-to-basics DLR Band. When Cherone was dismissed from Van Halen in 1999 after only a single album (the horrific Van Halen III), rumors began swirling once again about a possible Roth/Van Halen reunion.
With both camps keeping things very hush-hush, Roth finally broke the silence in April of 2001, issuing a statement on his website that he and his former Van Halen bandmates had indeed regrouped the previous year in the recording studio, but that Roth hadn't heard back from them in months. Barely a week later, Eddie Van Halen went public with the fact that he was diagnosed with cancer.
In 2002, Roth's Heavyweights of Rock and Roll Tour with Sammy Hagar succeeded beyond expectations and revived his career somewhat. Despite this, Roth's future with Van Halen remains uncertain. The recent Van Halen/Hagar reunion indicates that Roth will not reunite with them anytime soon.
In 2003, Roth released Diamond Dave, an album of (mostly) classic rock cover songs ("If 6 Was 9", "Soul Kitchen", and a solo/big band version of "Ice Cream Man").
In 2004, he appeared on The Sopranos as a poker-playing guest of Tony Soprano, to which Roth was quoted on his website as saying, "Mom says I'm going to look like Lee Marvin in 10 years whether I'm in movies or not, so I might as well get after it!"
According to news reports in July 2004, Roth relocated to New York City where he became an Emergency medical technician. Roth also took extensive flight training on the way to becoming a helicopter pilot.
Roth's website has stated that he is also working on the book The Tao of Dave: Rock 'n' Roll Philosophy with David Lee Roth, a follow-up to his autobiography.
On 3 January 3 2006, Roth began a career as a radio personality, hosting a self titled show that replaced satellite-radio-bound Howard Stern in the morning drive slot on CBS Radio stations in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and West Palm Beach. Roth stated in an October 2005 interview with Stern that his show would be political, but at the same time, not overly serious.
On 24 April 2006, the rumor about The David Lee Roth Show being replaced by Opie and Anthony was confirmed. A few days later, an article appeared in the Boston Herald, which stated that CBS, supposedly, never intended for Roth to replace Stern permanently. Reportedly, the company wanted Opie and Anthony to replace Stern all along; however, because of a public feud between Stern and the duo, they selected Roth to 'go first,' so as bear the brunt of fan outrage, and thus ensure Opie and Anthony's success.
On 25 May 2006 in an interview with Billboard magazine, Roth predicts a classic Van Halen reunion. ""There's contact between the two camps..." says Roth, and "To me, it's not rocket surgery. It's very simple to put together. And as far as hurt feelings and water under the dam, like what's-her-name says to what's-her-name at the end of the movie ' Chicago' -- 'So what? It's showbiz!' So I definitely see it happening." In the same interview, Roth also admits that he hasn't seen Eddie Van Halen "in a couple of years."
According to VHND.com, Roth plans a Summer Tour in 2006. He will play classic Van Halen hits as well as selected songs from his solo career. Roth will also promote a new CD, "Strummin' with the Devil," a Van Halen bluegrass tribute album, which features his vocals on several songs. Roth performed a bluegrass rendition of "Jump" on Jay Leno.
David Lee Roth Song List
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