David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?: Michael Anthony mulls over the great Van Halen debate

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Over his lengthy stint in Van Halen, Michael Anthony stood beside two of the most distinctive frontmen in rock history — David Lee Roth between 1974-85 and Sammy Hagar from 1985ā€“96. Both eras have their fans, and their detractors. But what’s stood the rest of time is the way their unique personas — with Anthony’s signature high-flying vocal assists — helped define Van Halen.

ā€œLead singers are a different breed,” Anthony tells the Niagara Gazette. “You have got to have the charisma to be able to pull it off.”

Nailing down which one was better, perhaps as expected, proves difficult for Anthony. He says both Roth and Hagar have their key attributes, but he might just be leaning toward his current bandmate. Anthony and Hagar formed Chickenfoot after their twin departures from Van Halen, and the bassist has also worked with Hagar in solo situations.

“To compare him with David Lee Roth,” Anthony says, “back in the day Dave would have this thing he did onstage and stick to it — whereas with Sammy, you never know what is going to come out of his mouth. Sammy has no qualms with changing up the setlist, either. He always keeps it interesting.ā€

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  • r sanchez

    Both eras are good. I’ve seen both iterations live and prefer Dave. It’s not to say I don’t like Sam. I just think classic VH holds better with age.

    For all the talk about Dave’s voice, I like to think that I go to a concert for the show. Dave can still put on a show. Albeit he’s older and can’t quite do jumps from the drum riser, but I wouldn’t expect him to either. There will be a time Eddie can no longer play his guitar, Mike his bass, Alex his drums or Sam sing. I enjoy them for what they were then and what they are now.

    Can’t waste life on living in the past. I think back and remember fondly the times of my life during all their music periods. I’m enjoying the period now of ADKOT and and am anxious for what may yet to come.

    Father time well remember the Mighty Van Halen well, but it won’t wait for them.

  • toddbook

    David Lee Roth all the way. It was more Rock N Roll than Sammy. Kind of foolish to ask Anthony about which is better though, he and Hagar are best of friends.

  • John Cate

    Not really a fair comparison for two reasons. One, Anthony and Sammy Hagar are friends who play together in the same band now, and have even gone so far as to tour as “The Other Half” of Van Halen. Secondly, classic Van Halen and Hagar-era Van Halen were totally different. The Van Halen brothers knew they couldn’t replace DLR, so they re-invented themselves when Sammy joined. Still a great band, but not the same band. If you ask Michael Anthony, of course he’s going to choose Sammy, but for personal reasons.