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|David Lee Roth (born October 10, 1954) is an American rock vocalist, songwriter, actor, author, and former radio personality. Ranked nineteenth by Hit Parader on their list of the 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Singers of All Time, Roth is best known as the original lead singer of California-based rock outfit Van Halen. In addition to his work with Van Halen, Roth enjoyed a successful career as a solo artist, which originated in 1985 and yielded several RIAA-certified Gold and Platinum records. After over a decade apart, Roth rejoined Van Halen in 2007 for a North American tour that became the most successful in the band's history and one of the highest grossing of that year. Roth has remained the lead singer of Van Halen since his 2007 return and is currently rumored to be recording material with the band for their first album since 1998.
Roth was born October 10, 1954 in Bloomington, Indiana. He is the son of Nathan Roth, an ophthalmologist, and Sibyl Roth. He is the brother of Allison and Lisa Roth. David's paternal and maternal grandparents emigrated from Azores Islands, Portugal and Russia to Indiana. Many members of his family were surgeons: Roth has an uncle, Dave, who is a brain surgeon, an uncle, Marty, who is an orthopedic surgeon, and a grandfather who was a surgeon. Roth's uncle, Manny Roth, is an influential New York City nightclub owner and entertainment entrepreneur who built and owned the New York establishment Cafe Wha? in the early 1960s, when the likes of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix were working there. Seven-year-old David Lee got his first taste of, and desire for, show business from the inside by hanging out at Cafe Wha?. His uncle would be one of David's first guests on his short-lived radio show on New York's 92.3 Free-FM.
After living in Bloomington and in Swampscott, Massachusetts, Roth moved to Pasadena, California in his teens. Roth stated he bounced around to too many schools and spent three years going to a psychiatrist. He eventually attended a ranch for troubled teens where he cared for a horse to build a sense of responsibility. He was educated at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California and John Muir High School in Pasadena. He later attended Pasadena City College (as did the Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex), although he did not graduate. During this period, Roth worked as a hospital orderly.
By the time Roth was in his late teens, the aspiring musician was singing solo as well as with a group called the Red Ball Jets. Another Los Angeles area group, Mammoth (featuring two Dutch immigrant Van Halen brothers, Alex on drums and Edward singing and playing lead guitar) occasionally rented the Red Ball Jets' PA system. Roth would eventually be invited to join Mammoth as lead singer, an invitation he quickly accepted. In 1974, the band was informed that another act already owned the copyright to the name Mammoth, and they (under Roth's suggestion) opted to dub themselves Van Halen.
Performing both original songs and established tunes, Van Halen eventually gained local success, becoming a regular feature at the Starwood Club, the West Coast's portal to fame. It was during their four-month stint there that they were first discovered. In 1976, Gene Simmons took note of the band (in particular Eddie Van Halen, who Simmons secretly hoped to recruit for his own band, Kiss) and assisted them in producing their first demo tape.Although featuring many of the songs that would be included on their future debut album, the tape did little to garner them any major label attention at the time. In 1977, Warner Brothers' Ted Templeman came to the Starwood, heard the group, and immediately signed them to a contract with his label.
Released in 1978, the band's first album, Van Halen, earned the band significant national attention. The album was a smashing success, with more than two million copies sold, and the original Van Halen went on to release five more successful albums over the next seven years. Roth is often credited with promoting Van Halen's image as the quintessential rock band, one devoted to a lifestyle described by David Fricke in Rolling Stone as "a nonstop booze-and-babes party train." Despite this wild image, Roth earned applause for his abilities as a lyricist and singer. The generally simple lyrics worked in harmony with the musical scores composed by Edward Van Halen to create the band's trademark tunes, tunes that helped transform Van Halen, in Fricke's words, into "the monster rock action squad that ruled the charts and the airwaves for seven years."
In late 1985, Roth assembled a backing band, consisting of guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan, and drummer Gregg Bissonette. With veteran Van Halen producer Ted Templeman handling the production, Roth released his debut full-length solo album, Eat 'Em and Smile in July, 1986. The album saw Roth return to hard rock music, and met with huge commercial and critical success, charting at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 for 1986.
In January 1988, Roth released Skyscraper, a more commercial recording featuring the hit single, "Just Like Paradise." Skyscraper was co-produced by Roth and Steve Vai and was certified Platinum (1 million in sales). At the time of its release, Skyscraper peaked at #6 on the Billboard album chart. Soon after Skyscraper's release, Billy Sheehan left Roth's band due to musical differences. He was replaced in time for the album's support tour with bassist Matt Bissonette. The tour was a major production featuring, at various points, Roth surfing above the audience on a surfboard suspended on wires, and in a boxing ring. Both parts of the stage show were featured in the "Just Like Paradise" music video. The show also featured the band in a calypso segment playing Caribbean steel drums and in an unplugged segment where the band performed acoustic covers of some rock and roll classics.
Following the tour for Skyscraper, Steve Vai left the band to pursue a solo career and record and tour with Whitesnake. Roth replaced him with then-unknown guitar virtuoso Jason Becker to record his third solo LP, A Little Ain't Enough. A more mainstream hard rock album produced by Bob Rock, A Little Ain't Enough achieved RIAA gold status. Shortly before the support tour for the album, Becker was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, which rendered him unable to perform. Roth replaced Becker with guitarist Joe Holmes for the tour. The emergence of grunge had altered musical tastes at the time and the tour did not do as well financially as its predecessors, marking the last solo arena tour for Roth.
In April 1993, Roth was arrested in New York City's Washington Square Park for buying what he described as "$10 worth of Jamaican bunk reefer" from an undercover police officer. The arrest made headlines and became a late-night television punch-line. When asked by Howard Stern whether the bust was a publicity stunt, Roth said, "Howard, in New York City this small of a bust is a $35 traffic citation. It literally says 'Buick, Chevy, Other'. Your dog poops on the sidewalk, it's $50. If I was looking for publicity, I would have pooped on the sidewalk."
In March 1994, Roth released Your Filthy Little Mouth, a more musically-eclectic album produced by Nile Rodgers. The album failed to achieve positive critical or commercial success, proving to be Roth's first solo effort not to reach Gold or Platinum status. The support tour found Roth playing considerably smaller venues than on he had previously. Although out of print for over ten years prior, Your Filthy Little Mouth saw a remastered re-release in 2007.
In 1995, Roth returned with an adult lounge act, performing largely in Las Vegas casinos, with a brass band that featured Nile Rodgers, Edgar Winter, and members of the Miami Sound Machine. It also featured several exotic dancers, who in Roth's words were "so sweet, I bet they shit sugar!"
By the late 1990s, Roth trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and worked as one for some time. He occasionally told stories about his experiences as an EMT on his radio show.
In early 1985, while still a member of Van Halen, Roth released "Crazy From The Heat", a popular solo EP of off-beat standards. Singles for "California Girls" and "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" succeeded largely due to their innovative music videos (produced by Jerry Kramer and co-produced by Glenn Goodwin), which featured ridiculous characters created by Roth's manager and Creative Chief Director, Pete Angelus (who directed Van Halen's Roth-era videos, before directing the videos from Roth's early solo career) along with some assistance by Roth.
On April 1, 1985, Roth and Van Halen parted ways. In his 1998 autobiography, Crazy From The Heat, Roth characterized Van Halen's music just before his 1985 departure as "morose". Roth wished to record an album quickly, tour, and then shoot a movie (the latter never coming to fruition).
In June 1996, Roth reunited with Van Halen for a brief time and to great public fanfare. He recorded two new songs for Van Halen's Best of Vol. 1 album, "Can't Get This Stuff No More" and "Me Wise Magic." After an infamous appearance on September 5, 1996, at the MTV Video Music Awards during which Roth and Eddie Van Halen reportedly threatened each other, Roth was passed over for Van Halen's new lead vocalist job in favor of Gary Cherone. (Cherone's previous band, Extreme, had opened for Roth in 1991).
In 1997, Roth wrote a well-received memoir, entitled Crazy From the Heat. The 359-page book was whittled down from over 1,200 pages of monologues, which were recorded and transcribed by a Princeton University graduate who followed Roth around for almost a year. The book received mostly positive critical reaction and spent time on the New York Times Bestseller list.
In 2001, rumors swirled that Roth and the members of Van Halen had recorded several new songs together and were in the process of attempting yet another reunion. Roth later confirmed this, but nothing became of the music. A box set was also rumored, but never materialized. Instead, Warner Bros. re-released remastered versions of all six early Van Halen studio albums.
In 2002, Roth's Heavyweights of Rock and Roll Tour with Sammy Hagar revived his career somewhat. Despite this, Roth's future with Van Halen seemed uncertain.
"Yankee Rose" appeared in the 2002 videogame Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, playing on rock station V-Rock.
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 2003, On December 31, Roth played a one night sold out New Year's Eve show at the House of Blues in Hollywood, CA consisting of Van Halen era songs as well as Roth era songs, and some drunken midgets roaming about the stage.
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!"
On July 4 2004, Roth performed with the Boston Pops at Boston's annual Pops Goes the Fourth celebration.
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 May 25, 2006 in an interview with Billboard magazine, Roth predicted 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". Strummin' With The Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen - A Tribute was released on CMH Records. This album consists of tributes to Van Halen performed by David Lee Roth, The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, Blue Highway, Mountain Heart, The John Cowan Band, Iron Horse, David Grisman and Sons.
On January 3, 2006, Roth began a career as a radio personality, hosting The David Lee Roth Show which 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.
Roth's show developed into a mix of music reviews, interviews with porn stars and strippers, political discussions, and guests from many walks of life. Roth's show featured an in-studio guitarist, Brian Young, referred to on air as B. Young.
On February 27, 2006, the Dallas, Boston, and Philadelphia affiliates started airing local programming in Roth's morning time slot, rather than repeat airings of "Best of Roth" while Roth was on vacation. When ratings were released on February 28, 2006, certain entertainment bloggers suggested Roth's hiatus would become permanent. However, on March 6, 2006, Roth returned as scheduled, and he continued to broadcast on weekday mornings. On March 8 and 9, Roth blasted his management on the air, explaining to his audience that they had asked him to stop catering towards ethnic groups and women, and instead focus on 35-year-old white males. On his March 10 show, he announced that things between him and the management had been settled "for the time being." During the week of March 27, Roth Radio took its show on the road for the first time, broadcasting from Miami, Florida.
On March 29, 2006, Roth was taken off the air by CBS; affiliates were told to find other programming to air. That day, Karen Mateo of CBS Radio released a statement saying that David Lee Roth would return to the airwaves from New York on March 31. Upon Roth's return on March 31, the format of his show had changed drastically. Many of the show's callers expressed dislike of the new format, saying they felt that the show had "lost its edge." One caller aired his opinion that Roth's tendency to laugh at one-liners was annoying. Starting April 10, 2006, the Dallas affiliate (now KRLD-FM) moved Roth up one hour from 6-10 central to 5-9 by running the show live instead of on an hour delay. The extra hour was given to the newly acquired Jagger Show, hosted by Chris Jagger.
On April 10, 2006, the New York Post reported that CBS Radio would replace Roth with the team of Opie and Anthony "within weeks."On the morning of April 21, 2006, about halfway through the show, Roth began complaining that his show was not able to take calls or emails. He then went on to read the news stories, only getting halfway through a story before commenting that he didn't care about it and going on to the next one. Following a commercial break, Roth chose to play only songs because of his frustration with CBS radio. At 8 AM, Roth returned to the air to interview car salesman Chop, and then at 9 AM he interviewed actor Jeff Bridges. Roth made an agreement with CBS to address the situation with 15 minutes left in the show; however, when that time came, CBS pulled the plug on him, and did not allow him to say good-bye to his fans.
As of April 22, 2006, David Lee Roth was rumored to be in talks with Sirius Satellite Radio to do an afternoon show. This was later denied by Howard Stern and Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin, who stated, "Mr. Roth is still under contract and unable to go to another radio medium while still being paid by CBS Radio." Roth is also expected to pursue his full one year payout of approximately $4 million. Stern has come to Roth's defense, claiming that he should have been allowed time to grow an audience.
On April 24, 2006, the rumor about The David Lee Roth Show being replaced by Opie and Anthony was confirmed. The duo filled Roth's former timeslot on April 26, 2006. Two 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.
During a brief war with Howard Stern in 1988, Stern was expecting Roth to show up at his K-Rock WXRK (in New York) station The Howard Stern Show, but when Roth failed to appear, Stern declared war on Roth and told his listeners to call him David "Weave" Roth. When Stern and Roth reconciled, Roth appeared on Stern's show to prove that he was not wearing a weave by having Stern pull on Roth's hair to confirm the claim.
During the course of Roth's radio show, he maintained a relationship with Howard Stern News Department reporter Steve Langford. Roth and Langford met frequently after shows, with Langford bringing tape back to Howard of Roth's complaints towards WXRK's management. Issues included Roth's firing, the missing podcast, and his show being cut off early. Langford and Roth met last on Roth's final day, April 21, 2006, Roth performed the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" for Howard and discussed an impending lawsuit against CBS.
On December 28, 2006, David Lee Roth warned that a reunion with Van Halen could result in a "NASCAR-style wreck."
On January 24, 2007, after much anticipation, Billboard.com reported that David Lee Roth would rejoin Van Halen for a 40-date amphitheater tour in Summer 2007. This report, among many others, was confirmed with an official press release posted on the official Van Halen website on Feb. 2, 2007.
On Feb. 2, 2007 The Official Van Halen Web Site released information that David Lee Roth had rejoined the band along with current members Alex, Eddie, along with Eddie and Valerie Bertinelli's teenage son, Wolfgang Van Halen. Michael Anthony, Van Halen's original and only bass player up to now (excluding Eddie, who played bass himself on some of Van Halen III and on all the new songs on the Best of Both Worlds compilation), was fired by Eddie before the summer 2004 tour with Sammy Hagar and played that tour under a 'hired gun' contract. Michael Anthony's website confirms his firing. David Lee Roth's website has a fan poll asking if Michael's absence will detract from a "reunion" tour. On March 8 the official Van Halen website posted a letter from Eddie Van Halen stating that Ed was entering rehab and that the tour with Roth had been indefinitely postponed.
In March 2007 five members of Van Halen, the four original members and Sammy Hagar were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Van Halen brothers did not attend due to Eddie's condition. Roth was to perform with the band Velvet Revolver; however, conflict with the band caused his part to be canceled. Roth subsequently did not attend the induction, leaving only Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar to represent Van Halen. Both Anthony and Hagar thanked Roth publicly for his contribution to the band during the awards acceptance.
The conflict was rumored to be based on song selection. Roth wanted to perform "Jump", the band's highest charting song, but Velvet Revolver would only agree to play "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" or "You Really Got Me". When it was finally agreed upon that Paul Shaffer would perform "Jump", Roth claimed that there was no longer enough time to rehearse and opted not to attend the ceremony.
On G4's show Code Monkeys, Dave is shown giving an inspirational speech to keep the others from taking up jobs at Bellecovision and asks "Would David Lee Roth leave Van Halen?" The show takes place in the 1980s.
On August 13, 2007, 6 months after the initial reunion tour was postponed, it was finally confirmed by Van Halen with Roth at a press conference in Los Angeles that they would start the tour back up again and schedule it starting in September 2007. At that conference, Eddie Van Halen stated that he and Roth were "like brothers" now. Calling Van Halen a "real band", both Edward and Roth spoke of the possibility of further worldwide touring and a new album in mind for the future.
On June 5, 2008, Van Halen announced the 2007-2008 tour with Roth grossed more than $93 million, a record for the rock band. Van Halen played to nearly one million people during 74 arena shows throughout the United States and Canada, beginning September 27, 2007 in Charlotte, N.C. and wrapping June 3, 2008 in Quebec City, Qc for the 400th anniversary of the city. Although currently inactive, it is rumored that the band will release an album of new material following Eddie Van Halen's marriage in June 2009 and allowing Wolfgang Van Halen to graduate high school before embarking on any further ventures.
When asked about the recent Rolling Stone blurb concerning Eddie Van Halen jamming again with Wolfgang and Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth mentioned "Oh, I'm just waiting for a call you know. We've got no new songs yet, no new lyrics but we've got forward momentum and that's the key. (Alex Van Halen)'s got this idea to use the kid from the '84 album grown up for the cover art though. Who knows? I'm gonna have to start hittin' the snooze button and not set an alarm, 'cause I'm expecting that call at any minute." On Sept 5th 2010, David Lee Roth was spotted at the 145th annual Scottish Gathering & Games in Pleasanton, California. When asked by a longtime fan when we will expect to hear from the band again, Roth said you could expect to hear from us within the next 7-8 months. This seems to confirm the recent press release from Warner/Chappell about Van Halen being in the studio working on a new CD with David Lee Roth (in spite of no confirmation either way from the band).