Sunday, February 13, 2005

Apple #36: David Lee Roth


Every once in a while, my brother likes to pose the question, "What do you think David Lee Roth is doing right now?" Of course, one can only speculate. Our typical answers have included such things as eating pizza and watching basketball, scratching his chest, flossing, etc. While I can't find information that will answer my brother's question definitively, I can provide some more background about Mr. Roth that may help us in our speculations.

For those who may not know, David Lee Roth was the dynamic front man for the 1980's smash hit band, Van Halen. He all but trademarked wearing spandex pants, doing the leaping splits, and shouting "Whooo!" into the microphone.


  • David Lee Roth was born in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1955. This year, he will celebrate his fiftieth birthday.
  • His family moved to California when he was a teen-ager, and soon he joined a band, the Red Ball Jets.
  • He often loaned his PA system to another band, Mammoth, which included Eddie and Alex Van Halen. They struck up a friendship, and in 1974, the Van Halen brothers asked Roth to join them in a new band.
  • Roth claims that it was his idea to name the band Van Halen, but this assertion is one of the countless sources of friction between Roth and the Van Halen brothers.
  • Gene Simmons from Kiss helped them produce their demo tape, which they shopped around at various record labels.
  • In 1977, when Roth was 22, the band was signed by Warner Brothers. In 1978, they released their first album, Van Halen, to tremendous success.
  • Through the late 1970's and early 1980's, the band released album after album, and hit after hit, including:
    • Runnin' with the Devil
    • You Really Got Me
    • Panama
    • Jump
    • Hot for Teacher
    • Just a Gigilo (cover)
  • In 1985, Roth issued a four-track solo album called Crazy From the Heat, which set off rumors that the band was breaking up. He also claimed that he was going to star in a major motion picture.
  • The movie never panned out, Roth left the band, and Roth and Van Halen sniped at each other through the press for several months afterwards.
  • Roth released several solo albums, but each one seemed to get worse, and soon his back-up bandmates had drifted off. He also tried to break into the Vegas circuit, but without success.
  • In the meantime, Van Halen continued on, with various other lead singers, but none quite stirred the public's enthusiasm the way Roth did.
  • In 1996, Van Halen and Roth appeared together at the MTV music awards show, and it looked like maybe they were going to get back together. In fact, Roth claimed that he had been promised as much. But then it was revealed that Van Halen had hired someone else instead, and Eddie Van Halen and Roth nearly got into a fist fight backstage at the awards show.
  • Roth and Van Halen did record some more songs together, and Roth waited for months to hear what would come of that. In 2001, he issued a statement on his website saying as much, but then a week later, Eddie Van Halen announced to the public that he had been diagnosed with cancer. The following year, Eddie got a clean bill of health and Van Halen had another lead singer -- Sammy Hagar, again.
  • A former roommate of mine in the late 1990's told me Roth had moved into his mother's house in Pasadena, in the same neighborhood as my roommate's parents. She said he sent out a flyer to everyone in the area, assuring them that he would not be having any wild parties and that he wanted a nice, quiet place to live. And, my roommate said, as far as she knew, he kept his word.
  • More recent news articles say that he moved from his estate in Pasadena to New York's Lower East Side.
  • In the summer of 2004, Roth announced he was in training to become a qualified paramedic. Skeptics thought he only wanted to get himself on a reality TV show. But, he says, he used to be a surgical orderly after he finished junior college and medicine runs in his family. By June of 2004, he had ridden with other paramedics on more than 200 calls -- all without being recognized. And paramedics say he used a defibrillator to save the life of a heart attack victim in the Bronx. He said he hopes to be able to volunteer a few times a week.

Here are some quotes from Mr. Roth, as recorded at the fansite, the Diamond David Lee Roth Army:

  • Young musicians are always coming up to me and asking how do you know when you've made it. When you can spell subpoena without thinking about it, that's when you know you've made it.
  • "Oh woe is me," as a form of self-dramatization, is always fun. It shouldn't be replaced, but there should be a balance. Sooner or later, it's Miller time!
  • Van Halen has always come down the beach with a torch in one hand and a sword in the other, and that's the way we've always approached our music and our live show and particularly my interviews and I don't see how people can resist.
  • [In response to an interviewer's statement, "You're five minutes early! How rock 'n' roll is that?":] Like a thunderbolt in your Cheerios, son, wake up and smell the toxic waste. They took it out of my Pop Tarts just when I was getting used to the taste. Actually, I haven't been to sleep since the late Eighties. How do I look?


Yahoo Music biography of David Lee Roth (the same biography is available at lots of music sites)
Diamond David Lee Roth Army fansite
NNDB editorial-flavored entry on David Lee Roth
David Lee Roth Impresses Paramedics Peers," Contactmusic's News on David Lee Roth, November 16, 2004
David Lee Roth's New Gig: EMT," Originally posted by E! Online and reprinted at Yahoo Music, 6/25/2004 is just a bunch of pictures
Images from and, a repository of quotes

1 comment:

  1. I like your blog! It's funny and interesting. Keep up the good work!


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