Like two aging grizzly bears well past their prime but refusing to retire gracefully, David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar have fought a long and bitter war about who is the best man to front Van Halen.
In the blue corner is Diamond Dave, the flamboyant verbal virtuoso, martial arts expert, and ladies man whose rock just keeps on rolling. And in the red corner is former boxer and Roth’s one-time replacement in Van Halen, Sammy Hagar.
Roth and Hagar’s beef is an ancient and highly entertaining one. Roth pretty much had Hagar on the ropes in the mid-’80s with a flurry of witty jabs and below the belt cheap shots, but Roth never quite managed to deliver the knockout blow that would silence his portly and frizzy-haired replacement for good.
On top of his game and posturing like a perfumed peacock, Roth once vowed that, unlike Hagar, he’d never have to sing one of the other’s songs in concert. And we all know how that ended.
Like a meaty and tenacious bull, Hagar soaked up all of Roth’s punishing jibes and turned the tables in the later rounds. Hagar’s defining moment of triumph came when he repeatedly taunted Roth to duel with him on stage during their 2002 co-headlining tour.
More recently, Hagar has been extremely vocal in his criticism of the Roth-fronted Van Halen’s live set and has remained skeptical as to the exact reason why Roth is reluctant to sing Hagar-sung tracks on his most recent Van Halen tour.
Ultimate Classic Rock reports that Roth’s refusal to sing Hagar songs is because the fans want classic Van Halen martial and not sloppy seconds, and also because “This hamburger don’t need no helper.”
“There’s a credibility issue there. Good, bad or in the middle, you know Roth means it; the other guy doesn’t. … And why would you bring that into the proceedings? This hamburger don’t need no helper.”
However, the million dollar question is, which singer has put in more stage time with Van Halen – Hagar or Roth? Both spent over a decade fronting the group but which singer has sung the most shows?
Ultimate Classic Rock reports that the answer is Roth. Diamond Dave chalked up approximately 840 shows before he and Van Halen parted ways for the first time in 1985.
In contrast, Hagar, during his 11-year stint with the band, including the disastrous 2004 reunion tour, has played a final total of less than 580.
When Roth was welcomed back into the fold in 2007, he has since played 182 more shows with the band, bringing his total to over 1,000.
It’s safe to say in this battle of the heavyweights, Roth has indeed landed the knockout blow. Because like the man said, “I get up and nothing gets me down. You got to roll with the punches and get to what’s real.”