Whenever a legendary band such as Van Halen has two lead singers that have both contributed to its success, it’s inevitable for their listeners to compare the two eras. In Van Halen’s case, the two icons are David Lee Roth versus Sammy Hagar.
The world recognized Van Halen with Diamond Dave. He became a member when their name was still Mammoth but departed in August 1985. Following this, Sammy Hagar came into the scene and unofficially changed the band’s name into ‘Van Hagar.’ Both singers added their touch to the band’s sound and left a mark on Van Halen’s music career thanks to their on and off tenure.
Today, we’re here to discuss which lead singer contributed the most to the band’s legacy and success using the necessary evidence. Combining the numbers with fans’ comments, it’s up to you to decide who did a better job, David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar.
David Lee Roth Fronted Van Halen For More Than Two Decades
After the band’s formation in 1972, David Lee Roth joined Van Halen as their lead singer after several failed auditions. The band performed original and cover songs during their early years but eventually gained success and became a regular feature on Sunset Strip clubs.
The band’s success went only up from then on, especially after releasing their debut studio album in 1978. Their album, ‘Van Halen,’ brought the band significant national attention and radio airplay. Van Halen toured for three months and then opened for Black Sabbath for nine months straight, stealing the show from one of the biggest metal bands at the time. Thanks to their success while touring, the album reached No. 19 on the Billboard 200 and eventually sold more than 12 million copies by 2014 and was certified Diamond by the RIAA.
The band recorded four more platinum albums over the next five years and toured together. David Lee Roth is regarded as one of the key figures contributing to Van Halen’s perception thanks to his wild image and high kicking, tight pantsed, Capezio-wearing looks.
Diamond Dave’s one-of-a-kind persona on stage worked perfectly with late guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s impeccable guitar skills until the two started developing different opinions for the band’s music. While Roth wanted original or even cover songs about partying, dancing, women, and sex, Ed wanted darker, deeper tunes in minor keys. The conflict eventually caused the singer’s departure from the band.
The vocalist had brief reunions with the band in 1996 and 2001, and it wasn’t until 2007 when he fully rejoined Van Halen for a 40-date arena and amphitheater tour. Until the band’s disbandment last year due to Eddie Van Halen’s passing, Diamond Dave rocked with the band and performed dozens of shows.
With David Lee Roth in front, Van Halen released a number of their best albums, including ‘Fair Warning,’ ‘1984,’ and ‘Women and Children First,’ which sold millions of copies. The charismatic lead singer created an extravagant stage persona that formed the perfect appeal for the band. Therefore, when Sammy Hagar joined the band, he had big shoes to fill in and decided to throw those shoes away and create his own.
Sammy Hagar Had A Tenure With Van Halen For A Little Over A Decade
After parting ways with David Lee Roth, Van Halen members considered many potential replacements. However, only one singer had enough courage and talent to replace such a spot; Sammy Hagar. Following the audition, the band quickly hired the vocalist to fill the opening, and that was the beginning of an entirely new era called ‘Van Hagar.’
During the Red Rocker’s tenure with the band, Van Halen produced four multi-platinum, No. 1 Billboard charting albums including, and released countless chart hits and nine No. 1 Mainstream Rock hits.
Although the band had a distinctive and successful tenure with the musician, internal disputes ended the Van Hagar era. Hagar left in June 1996, only to return briefly between 2003-2005. Despite Hagar’s time with the band was shorter compared to Diamond Dave, he managed to create a legacy like no other, and it’s fair to say he created a whole new band with his unique style.
So the question goes; did the charismatic and wild lead singer David Lee Roth who contributed to the creation of the Van Halen brand and worked with them for years contribute to the band the most, or was it Sammy Hagar who changed the course of the band with his energetic live performances even though he was given a tough task? The decision is yours to make now that you know their history with the band.
You can listen to two of the best songs from both eras below.