Sammy Hagar

Sammy Hagar Biography

Singer (1947–)
Rock singer and musician Sammy Hagar is the former lead singer of iconic rock band Van Halen.


Sammy Hagar was born in Salinas, California, on October 13, 1947. After joining and leaving a string of bands, Hagar found some early fame as the frontman of the group Montrose in the early 1970s. Following a successful solo run, Hagar joined Van Halen in 1985, and over the next decade the revamped band recorded four No. 1 albums. Tension between Hagar and the group led to his departure in 1996.

Early Life

Rock singer Samuel Roy "Sammy" Hagar was born on October 13, 1947, in Salinas, California. One of four children, Hagar was raised in Fontana, California, where he grew up under a cloud of turbulent family dynamics. His father, Bobby, who worked at a steel mill, packed an intensity that only found an outlet in his boxing and drinking. His frequent absence meant that much of the parenting fell on the nurturing shoulders of Hagar's mother, Gladys.

Hagar's rough childhood forced him to grow up fast. Intent on carving out a better life for himself, he found his freedom in the boxing ring first, and then in music. Driven by the rock sounds that were coming out of Southern California, Hagar joined and quit a number of bands, including the Skinny, the Fabulous Catillas, Dust Cloud, and the Justice Brothers.

Early Music Career

It wasn't until the mid-1970s that Sammy Hagar found success with a band, becoming frontman of the band Montrose, a group he'd joined in 1973. Montrose recorded its first two albums with Hagar before problems arose between the singer and the band's founder, Ronnie Montrose, causing Hagar to quit in 1975 and go solo.

Over the next decade, Hagar achieved considerable success, recording a total of eight albums. His last three solo records, Standing Hampton (1981),Three Lock Box (1982) and V.O.A. (1984) went platinum, gold and platinum, respectively. From his V.O.A. album, Hagar released what is arguably his most successful solo single, "I Can't Drive 55."

Van Halen

In 1985, Hagar was invited by Eddie Van Halen and the remaining members of Van Halen to replace the band's original lead singer, David Lee Roth. Already considered one of rock's biggest bands, the group recharged with Hagar as its new frontman and, over the next 11 years, recorded four popular albums: 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) and Balance (1995).

But success hardly brought tranquility for the band. The biggest problems were between Hagar and guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who told Guitar magazine in 1997: "There had been a variety of conflicts brewing between Sammy and the band since I quit drinking on October 2, 1994. ...It got so bad that I actually started drinking again."

Whether Hagar was fired from the band or left on his own accord has never been clear, but by 1996, Hagar was no longer a member of Van Halen.

For the next several years, Hagar stayed busy, both in the studio and on tour as a solo artist. In 2002, he even teamed up with Roth for a unique tour of former Van Halen frontmen, which they appropriately called, the "Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth Tour 2002: Song for Song, the Heavyweight Champs of Rock and Roll."

When it concluded, Hagar was relieved to be done with Roth. "I think it was pretty good, but it could have been a heck of a lot better," Hagar said of the aforementioned tour. "Dave's an unreasonable guy. He's a not a cool guy, he's not a fun guy. He's got this persona, this image like he's Mr. Party — but the guy's Mr. Uptight! I mean, you can't even imagine.

Not long after, Hagar decided to patch things up with Van Halen, and in 2004, he rejoined the band. The reunion never resulted in a new album, however. Instead, old tensions between Hagar and Eddie Van Halen resurfaced, and at the end of a strained tour, Hagar once again parted ways.    

Recent Years

Hagar's second post-Van Halen life has continued to see him busy. In 2008, he released his 11th studio album, Cosmic Universal Fashion. That same year, Hagar teamed up with Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and guitarist Joe Satriani to form the band Chickenfoot. The group released its self-titled debut the following year. A subsequent record, Chickenfoot III was released in 2011.

In addition, Hagar has continued his solo work with releases such as Sammy Hagar & Friends (2013) and Lite Roast (2014).    

Personal Life

In 2011, Hagar published his memoir, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. In the book, he categorically denied ever fathering a baby with a former Playboy model he'd had an affair with in the 1980s. Following the book's publication, Hagar's ex-lover filed a defamation lawsuit against the singer. A judge dismissed the case in 2013.

Hagar has been married twice and is the father of four children.

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