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The story of why the singer Sammy Hagar left Van Halen


The story of why the singer Sammy Hagar left Van Halen

Born in Salinas, California in 1947, Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen in 1985, right after David Lee Roth decided to leave the band. He already was an experienced musician and had been part of Montrose besides having a successful solo career. At the time it was what Sammy and Van Halen needed, since he always said it was the peak of his creative life and of course, it also helped Van Halen to continue to be a big band, since they still released praised albums and sold millions of records.


But it all came to an end after 11 years together in 1996 and as it is said there are always three sides to a story: one side, the other side and the truth. So that applies to what happened the first time Sammy Hagar was out of Van Halen in 1996, since he says he was fired and the brothers said that he quit the band.

The story of why the singer Sammy Hagar left Van Halen or was fired in 1996

Since there are two sides to this story it is impossible to know what really happened the first time Sammy left Van Halen in 1996. There was certainly a lot of bad blood between him and the band right after the “divorce” and MTV fomented that back in 1996 since they interviewed the brothers Alex and Eddie asking them what really happened and showed that tape to Sammy.

Eddie and Alex Van Halen’s version to what happened the first time Sammy Hagar was out of the band

The brothers said that Sammy wasn’t giving his 100% effort and that wasn’t being a team player. (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) “We tried to be gentleman about this and I guess we’re just going to get a little bit nasty right now,” Alex Van Halen said. The interviewer then questioned if they felt Sammy didn’t give 100% effort and the drummer quickly replied saying: “No judgment”.

His younger brother, the guitarist Eddie Van Halen explained the situation. He said: “The bottom line is that work ethic sucked, ok? Now if he wanted to be in this band and be a team player he would be here right now.”

“He put out a press release saying ‘I quit’, a week later he said I kicked him out. I’ll take a lie detector test!”

Sammy Hagar’s version to what happened the first time he was out of Van Halen in 1996

Some days later MTV showed the tape of that interview to Sammy and then he gave his version. Right after he saw Eddie saying he would accept a lie detector test he said: “Good, time to take one”. Then he continued: “The truth is that the first thing that happened was that I was called by Eddie on Father’s day morning. He goes: ‘You really frustrate me, you never do anything I asked you to do and I’m going: ‘Yeah I do’. I mean, it really wasn’t a problem like this in our whole 11 years of creativity.”

“He said: ‘When I asked you and I got so frustrated I went and got Roth, we’ve been working with him and it’s been great. You have always been a solo artist anyway, you might as well just go back to being a solo artist. (He said) exactly that and I went ‘Wow!’ I was floored, I just looked at my wife and I went ‘I can’t believe this’.

In the same conversation he said he would have left the band anyway in the same year. The reason was because he wanted to record a new album but they wanted to make a Greatest Hits album and not tour. “(Doing that it’s) basically saying that we’re over, the biggest waste of time in the world. (It’s strictly money”.

Sammy also criticized Eddie for not being sober during their last tour

“He was wasted in this last tour in Japan. (Eddie) played horrible, like embarrassingly horrible. He hasn’t been sober for two years, absolutely not. Anyone that says he has been is lying”.

“(…) I’m sorry, these guys are lying, I didn’t quit this band. I told you exactly word for word what happened. You can interpret it any way you want but I think Ed forgets what he told me. He was plastered when he called me at nine o’clock in the morning. I was trying to leave that out but he was plastered.”

“I felt like I lost some friends out of this deal and I really, really have. Honestly I’m a survivor man, because I’m over it, I’m fine with it you, I’m making a new record. I’m just gonna get on with it. I still love these guys, we made the best music I’ll probably ever make in my entire life.”

“I’m proud of it, I have nothing bad to say about it but I hate the way it ended. You could take all my clothes, everything I got, fill me out in the desert and I’ll come back fully dressed with a brand new car (laughs),” Sammy Hagar said.

Sammy Hagar’s solo song “Little White Lie” was inspired by his fight with Alex and Eddie Van Halen

In 1997, his first year out of Van Halen, Sammy Hagar released his first solo album after one decade. Called “Marching to Mars” the record had many songs that appeared on the charts and one of them was “Little White Lie”. It turns out it was a song inspired by what Alex and Eddie said in the press about Sammy “leaving” Van Halen. Besides the lyrics, there were also many other elements in the music video pointing to the band, the most obvious one was a guy taking a lie detector test.

He explained the inspiration for the song in an interview in 1997 reported by MTV. (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage)

“I was in the studio working on my record and my guitar tech comes: ‘Sammy, Sammy, Ed’s on MTV, you gotta come and see it. Man, they’re talking trash about you’. So I took that song and I rewrote it”

“I’m not proud of being kicked out of one of the greatest bands in the world. I didn’t quit the band, I would have never quit the band. 10 great years, one bad one for me. That band taught me I’m a better singer today, better songwriter, better guitar player, what more can I ask for?” Sammy Hagar said.

The Sammy Hagar 2004 reunion tour with Van Halen

Two years after a disastrous co-headlining tour with David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar finally reunited with Van Halen again. They left all the grudges in the past after 8 years apart and they made 80 concerts in 2004 from summer to mid-November. But according to Sammy things didn’t work out this time due to Eddie’s struggle with his addiction.

According to Sammy the idea was to make a new album since Van Halen’s last one had been “Van Halen III” (1998) with Gary Cherone on vocals. But the singer said that things didn’t work out since they only managed to do three songs in four months reunited. So they ended up deciding to just go out on the road and although it was a successful tour, it wasn’t good for the band members as the singer recalled in an interview with Metal Express in 2005.

“We tried to do an album. We only got three songs done. It took four months to do three songs. So I was saying, ‘Let’s go out and play for the people before this whole thing ends.’ ‘Cause if you remember right, they tried to do an album with Gary Cherone — the second record — and that didn’t finish.”

He continued:

“Then they tried to do a record with Dave three times, and they never got it done. So I was seeing that coming. As a person who wanted to go out and play for the people, I said, ‘Let’s stop recording. Let’s go out on the road while we still can.’ And I think it was a smart move. The management was into that as well. We had shows on sale. We pretty much had to go out and do some shows. That’s why we only did three songs,” Sammy Hagar said.

Talking with Rolling Stone in 2022, the Red Rocker said that Eddie went completely off the rails during their last show in 2004 which happened in Albuquerque. He smashed his guitar on stage and the band’s manager advised Sammy to leave the place as soon as possible.

“At the end of the tour. We finished in Albuquerque, and Ed went completely off the rails. Irving Azoff (Manager) grabbed me at the end of the show and said, ‘Get in the car and get the fuck out here.’ We were supposed to go on the same plane together. We had a plane and we were going to fly home. He saw what was going on earlier and he chartered me another plane by myself with my wife and my tour manager.”

He continued:

“I was walking off the stage, somebody goes and grabs me and said, ‘Keep on going. Get the fuck out of here, right now. Go.’ Well, he just knew a fight would have broken out. Because Ed was so belligerent on that last show that I wanted to beat his ass.”

Sammy also recalled that it was the last time he ever spoke with the drummer Alex Van Halen. Since then he tried to reach him out but the musician never returned his calls.

“So Alex came up to me right there at the same time and gave me a big hug and said, ‘I love you, man. Thank you. Be careful. Safe flight.’ And that was the last time. And I think we talked on the phone a little bit, but I don’t know what happened with Al. He kind of drank the Kool-Aid or something,” Sammy Hagar said.

After that reunion Sammy continued with his solo career and even created the supergroup Chickenfoot. As for Van Halen the band finally managed to reunite with David Lee Roth and besides touring they also recorded the band’s final album: “A Different Kind of Truth” released in 2012. Curiously, the bassist Michael Anthony wasn’t invited to be part of that reunion. The main reason was probably because he was always more close to Sammy. When the group was inactive after 2004 he started to perform with Sammy on his solo career. During the reunion tour with Roth he was replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang.

Sammy managed to become a friend of Eddie again before his passing

Sammy was never in touch with Eddie again until a few months before he passed away in 2020. Their mutual friend, the actor George Lopez was responsible for them getting in touch again. He told Sammy that Eddie was sick and that he should try to call him before it was too late. So Sammy called him and they managed to be in touch again. Especially texting each other when Eddie was in the final stages of his battle with cancer.

The singer noted in interviews that he knew things got worse when Eddie stopped answering his messages and not long after the news of his death arrived. The legendary guitarist passed away in October 6, 2020 at the age of 65.

Since then there is a rumor about a reunion to pay tribute to Eddie has been circulating. But it didn’t happen and Eddie’s son Wolfgang revealed that it was Roth the main person who prevented that reunion from happening. He is a difficult person to deal with and that made it impossible for the shows to happen.

More recently the bassist Michael Anthony showed that there is no bad blood between him and Wolfgang. Mike went to see Wolfie’s band Mammoth playing live in Las Vegas in 2023 and they both saw each other backstage.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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