DAVID LEE ROTH
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Link to David Lee Roth Discography
David Lee Roth is the son of Nathan Roth, a prominent ophthalmologist, and Sybil Roth. Roth's Jewish grandparents emigrated to Indiana from Ukraine. Roth's uncle, Manny Roth, is an influential New York City nightclub owner and entertainment entrepreneur. Manny Roth owned the famous New York establishment Cafe Wha?. In the early 1960s when the likes of Bob Dylan and Bill Cosby 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 "the Wha?".
Roth moved to Pasadena, California, in his teens after living in Swampscott, Massachusetts, and Bloomington, Indiana.
Roth was educated at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California and John Muir High School in Pasadena. He later attended Pasadena City College, although he did not graduate.
Roth rose to prominence in the 1970s Los Angeles rock scene as the lead singer of Van Halen. In 1974 Roth rented his PA system to the brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, and later joined their hard rock band as lead vocalist. Roth soon persuaded the Van Halen brothers to change the band's name from Rat Salade to Van Halen. (The group had also performed as Mammoth.) In the late 1970s, Van Halen debuts. It quickly established the group as a commercial success, and it is credited with establishing Los Angeles as pop music's unofficial capital during the 1980s and early-1990s.
Soon after Van Halen's debut, Roth became well-known for his acrobatic showmanship and outrageous off-stage behaviour. He became a media celebrity; his ribald witticisms were frequently quoted. Establishment criticism came—the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said that Roth was "the most obnoxious singer in human history, an achievement notable in the face of long tradition and heavy competition"—but it had little effect. Although often noted more for physical than for technical prowess, Roth's bluesy baritone voice and distinctive screams, along with his often humorous and campy lyrics, were integral to Van Halen's sound. Roth was able to take his voice into a multi-pitched wheeze/rasp, almost like a train whistle, that few can imitate successfully.
1979 to 1984 saw Van Halen release five more albums: Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down, and 1984, each to increasing popular success and critical acclaim. In 1983, Van Halen was paid $1,000,001 to play one set at the US Festival in California, and thus became one of the two highest paid bands in modern history, along with the festival's other headlining act, David Bowie. Van Halen achieved their greatest commercial success, including their first Billboard #1 single, for the song "Jump", in 1984. Soon after, tensions boiled over between Roth and his bandmates. In early 1985, while still a member of Van Halen, Roth released a solo EP of off-beat standards, which became wildly popular. Singles for "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody", and "California Girls" succeeded largely due to their innovative music videos, which featured ridiculous characters created by Roth.
In April 1985, Roth either quit Van Halen or was fired (reports differ). Reportedly, tensions between Roth and guitarist Eddie Van Halen broke over Van Halen's desire to incorporate keyboards, synthesizers, and power ballads into the group's sound. In his 1998 autobiography, Crazy From the Heat, Roth characterized Van Halen's music just before his 1985 departure as "morose." Reportedly, Roth wished to record an album quickly, tour, and then shoot a movie (the ill-fated Crazy From the Heat), but found his bandmates apathetic, lethargic, and drunk. Reportedly, Roth also disliked Eddie Van Halen's behavior regarding an appearance on Michael Jackson's 1983 hit "Beat It"—Van Halen did not tell Roth that he had recorded the song, for fear that Roth would prevent him from releasing it. In Crazy From The Heat, Roth writes that he approved of Van Halen's participation on "Beat It"; he believed that the Quincy Jones-produced track provided an excellent vehicle for Van Halen to showcase his talents. Differing reports persist to this day regarding the causes of Roth's departure from Van Halen. Regardless, since 1985, Roth and his former bandmates have engaged in an acrimonious if often colorful feud that has made headlines for twenty years and has become the subject of much popular debate and speculation.
In late 1985, Roth assembled a band that many considered a supergroup, composed of guitarist Steve Vai, bass player Billy Sheehan and drummer Greg Bissonette. He later enlisted Van Halen producer Ted Templeman to produce the band's debut album. Eat'em and Smile saw Roth return to hard rock music, and met with considerable commercial success. The Eat 'em and Smile Tour was one of the most successful concert tours of 1986.
Van Halen's first album with Sammy Hagar, Roth's replacement as lead vocalist, entitled 5150, met with greater commercial success than Eat 'em and Smile. Van Halen titled their 1988 album OU812 (i.e. Oh, you ate one too?) to ridicule Eat 'Em And Smile.
In early 1988, Roth released Skyscraper, a more experimental album with a pop sound. Although it featured Roth's most famous original solo song, "Just Like Paradise", Skyscraper met with a more tepid commercial response than anything Roth had released previously. Soon after Skyscraper's release, Billy Sheehan left Roth's band. Following the Skyscraper Tour, Steve Vai left.
In 1990, Roth released A Little Ain't Enough, a basic hard rock album, produced by Bob Rock; it achieved RIAA gold status. Twenty-year old guitar prodigy Jason Becker played on the album, but he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease shortly before the accompanying arena tour. He was replaced by Joe Holmes. The stage for the A Little Ain't Enough Tour featured statues that spat vodka at Roth's audience, and a pair of giant inflatable legs, positioned 'spread-eagle', wearing ripped, fishnet stockings. Musical tastes changed dramatically by the end of 1991, with the arrival of grunge music, hence Roth's tour did not sell out many venues, as in the past.
In 1993, Roth was arrested in New York City's Washington Square Park for buying what he once 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 1994, Roth released Your Filthy Little Mouth, an eclectic, lyrically intricate album produced by Nile Rodgers. It combined elements of rock, country, reggae, hip hop, lounge, and others; for example, it included the song "Cheating Heart Cafe", a duet with the popular country singer Travis Tritt. It did not sell well, failng to achieve gold status. Roth then began to perform at smaller venues in the US. Nevertheless, many partisan fans remained; for example, in the film Airheads released that year, people who sided with Roth in the Van Halen split were denoted as cool, whereas a character siding with Van Halen was fingered as an undercover police officer. (Similarly, in 2001, the title character of the film Joe Dirt declared he was a Van Halen fan, not a "Van Hagar" fan.)
In 1995, Roth devised and performed an adult lounge act, 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!"
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 transcribed by a Harvard University graduate student, who followed Roth around for almost a year. Among the book's revelations, aside from stories about backyard parties, Van Halen, and catching malaria in Third world jungles, was the infamous "Brown M&Ms" clause written into Van Halen's early contract riders. The clause was included in contracts not because of ego, but rather to make sure that structural stage specifications in the contract were read thoroughly and were adequately provided. Roth writes of a time when he found brown M&M's in a bowl and subsequently had a fit. In the press, he was accused of causing $85,000 worth of damage to the arena. Most of the monetary damages were due to Van Halen's staging sinking through the floor. Roth writes, "they didn't bother to look at the weight requirements or anything, and this sank through their new flooring and did eighty-thousand dollars worth of damage to the arena floor. The whole thing had to be replaced. It came out in the press that I discovered brown M&M's and did eighty-five thousand dollars' worth of damage to the backstage area. Well, who am I to get in the way of a good rumor?"
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 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!"
On July 4, 2004, Roth performed with the Boston Pops at Boston's annual Pops Goes the Fourth celebration.
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 May 25, 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.
On 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 will be political, but at the same time, not overly serious.
Initial ratings for Roth's show proved poor. Many criticized Roth's lack of talk show experience, and tendency to laugh at his own one-liners, while noting that he is trying to replace a major figure in Stern. 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 afilliates 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, certain entertainment bloggers suggested Roth's hiatus would become permanent. However, on March 6, 2006, Roth returned as scheduled, and 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 to March 31, Roth Radio took its show on the road for the first time, broadcasting from Miami, Florida all week long. On Wednesday, 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 Friday, 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 Dave's morning circus tendency to laugh at unfunny one-liners was nettlesome. Starting Monday, April 10, 2006, the Dallas affiliate moved Roth back one hour, running a local program in the second half of the morning.
On April 20, 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, Dave was ranting about his show not being able to take calls or emails. He then went on to read the news stories, (including a tirade about Bob Dylan's new XM Radio show, and how he sounds like "a stretched out rubber band"). He would only get halfway through a story before commenting that he didn't care about it, and would go 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 famed 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.
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 Wednesday, 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, 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 show up, Stern declared war on Roth and told his listeners to call him David Weave Roth. When Stern and Roth buried the hatchet, Roth came on and proved to Stern that he wasn't wearing a weave by having Stern pull his golden locks.
On August 23, 2006, it was announced at the Independent Media Centre "Rock Camp" in Ontario, Canada, that for the 2007 camp, Roth was to teach the "Advanced Vocals" students.
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 will 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 February 2, 2007.
On February 2, 2007 The Official Van Halen Web Site released information that David Lee Roth has rejoined the band along with current members Alex, Eddie, along with Edward and Valerie's teenage son, Wolfgang Van Halen. Michael Anthony, Van Halen's original and only bass player up to now (excluding Eddie played bass himself on some of Van Halen III and all the new songs on the Best of Both Worlds compilation), was fired by Edward 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 8th the official Van Halen website posted a letter from Edward Van Halen stating that the Ed was entering rehab and the tour with Roth has been indefinitely postponed.
In March of 2007 five members of Van Halen, the four original members (including Roth) and Sammy Hagar were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Van Halen brothers did not attend due to Ed'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 bands highest charting song, but Velvet Revolver does not have a keyboard player and was against allowing a keyboardist to play with them. Since "Jump" relies heavily on keyboards, the song couldn't be done without one. They suggested other songs, but Roth had already rehearsed "Jump" and was against any change. The conflict was not resolved so Roth was regrettably absent from the ceremony.
It is rumored that Val Kilmer is set to portray Roth as a supporting character in The Dirt, a movie about rock band Mötley Crüe.
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