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Singer David Lee Roth has become a legend of rock 'n' roll, as the wild frontman for Van Halen and as a solo artist.
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Born in 1954, David Lee Roth played with a few different bands before joining Van Halen. The band released their first self-titled album in 1978, and quickly became a top hard rock act. In the mid-1980s, Roth launched a successful solo career. He has reunited with Van Halen twice over the years—briefly in 1996 and again in 2007. Since 2007, Roth has toured with the group and released a new album in 2012.
"Van Halen music is whisky in a paper cup! Short doses and not every night."
"I've been rich. I've been poor. Rich is better."
Now famous for his distinctive vocals, as well as his rowdy and, sometimes, raunchy stage persona, David Lee Roth started life as the son of an ophthalmologist. Some of his early musical favorites were jazz artist Al Jolson and R&B legend Ray Charles. During the summers, Roth would often visit his uncle Manny in New York City. His uncle ran the club Cafe Wha? in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, a popular hot spot for such famous talents as Bob Dylan.
Roth moved to California with his family as a teenager. He began performing in high school by joining a band. As a student at Pasadena State College, Roth studied music theory for a time. There, he befriended Eddie and Alex Van Halen, two brothers from the Netherlands who played together in a band called Mammoth. Roth played with several bands himself, including Red Ball Jets. The Van Halens sometimes rented Roth's PA system for their gigs. Roth later joined Mammoth, which soon changed its name to Van Halen after learning another group already had rights to "Mammoth." Michael Anthony came onboard as the group's bassist.
Van Halen became a popular fixture on the club scene. According to several reports, KISS's frontman Gene Simmons attended one of the band's concerts and paid for them to make a demo recording. Van Halen landed a contract with Warner Bros. in 1977 and released their first self-titled album the following year. Van Halen quickly became a hit, featuring Roth's expressive, sometimes primal vocals and Eddie Van Halen's revolutionary guitar work. The album contained numerous now classic hard rock songs, such as "Runnin' with the Devil" and "Jamie's Cryin'." Roth wrote much of the lyrics for the group, which has been credited for changing the face of hard rock with their pop- and punk-influenced sound.
In 1979, Van Halen had their first hit single with "Dance the Night Away." The band toured to support the record, and Roth proved to be quite the showman. With his long blond hair and crazy spandex outfits, he won over audiences with his fast-talking patter, jumps and stunts. His routine has commonly been described as vaudeville meets the Sunset Strip. Off stage, Roth and his bandmates developed quite the reputation as one of rock's most hedonistic acts. One rock journalist called the group's lifestyle as "a nonstop booze-and-babes party train." Roth himself has said that Van Halen made Led Zeppelin look like Boy Scouts.
Roth made several more hit albums with Van Halen, including 1984, which proved to be Roth's most successful recording with the group, scoring their first number-one single "Jump." He also co-directed several of the band's videos, including the one for "Hot for Teacher." The suggestive yet comical video became popular on MTV. Around this time, however, Roth began to branch out on his own, and Van Halen quickly replaced him with Sammy Hagar.
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