David Lee Roth (October 10, 1954) If you don’t know then where’ve you been hiding? He is, of course, the frontman (I wouldn’t dare call him the singer) of Hall Of Fame members Van Halen and solo artist in his own right. Lee Roth is also a published author, Radio Presenter, Actor and multi-platinum recording artist to boot now how about that? Most famed for his stints in Van Halen (or rather the first stint in Van Halen) and his incredibly succesful solo run where he had an EP ‘Crazy From The Heat’ in ’85 that was an MTV smash as well as a couple of massively successful records ‘Eat Em And Smile’ in ’86 and ‘Skyscraper’ in ’88 that saw him assemble an iconic band around him that rivaled anything he did in Van Halen or it certainly seemed like it on this side of the pond (possibly due to his touring here in the UK) something his previous employers didn’t do to the same extent thats for sure.
He managed to release six solo albums between ’86 and ’03 which was the same amount he recorded with Van Halen between ’78 and ’84 however its fair to say the quality of the Van Halen albums far outshines his solo efforts.
Roth was born in Indiana to art teacher Sibyl Roth and ophthalmologist Nathan Roth. Roth moved to Pasadena in his teens. He “bounced around” a number of schools and eventually saw a psychiatrist for several years, when he attended a ranch for troubled teens he cared for a horse to build a sense of responsibility something they obviously thought he was lacking. It was in Pasadena, at the Pasadena City College (he did not graduate either) where he met the Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex. and his life would change forever.
His first band was called Mammoth and along with the two Van Halen brothers they mostly played covers and it when they found out there was another band with the same name it was changed to Van Halen. It was when playing a residency at the Starwood that the band was discovered by none other than Gene Simmonds in ’76. It is believed he took note originally as he wanted Eddie for his own band Kiss however he did record the band’s first demos. The demos went on to form the basis of the band’s debut album which Warner Brothers’ Ted Templeton had them signed after also seeing them perform at The Starwood club. That debut album has since gone on to sell a staggering 12 million copies.
As a frontman, Roth was perfect for the time and perfect for the band. he was considered the ultimate party frontman and reveled in his role. they were described as “a nonstop booze-and-babes party train.” by Rolling Stone and a lot of that was down to Roth’s flamboyant style.
Fast forward to the MTV age of 1984 and Roth certainly knew how to make a video and he was always under the spotlight of every party damn there was no party unless he was there. His first foray into a solo career came just after the huge success of ‘Hot For Teacher’ and ‘Jump’ and it was something of a sidestep and a touch of genius that set him up as a crooner to record ‘Just A Gigalo’ and ‘California Girls’ which suited his style and persona to a tee. The videos were humorous (at the time) and indulged his womanizing party-going lifestyle. It’s fair to say it was perfect for the star and he was indeed the larger than life character that people came to know and love. Let’s be fair lots of boys wanted to be him and girls wanted to be with him – life must have been peachy for Roth throughout the ’80s no doubt about it.
Going from the Van Halen brothers seemed like madness at the time but as soon as ‘Eat Em And Smile’ hit the shelves and people saw what was on offer via the video for ‘Yankee Rose’ it was like Van Who? I bet Warner Brothers couldn’t believe their luck when they heard what he was creating with Vai, Bissonette and Billy Sheehan and then the lycra of ‘Yankee Rose’ hit the TV sets and Roth was top of the class again. The debut solo album reached number four in the Billboard charts whilst the singles just licked the top ten. The second solo record ‘Skyscraper’ also featured Vai and Sheehan reaching number six in the Billboard charts selling over two million which isn’t something you can sniff at. The single ‘Just Like Paradise’ also got to number six and featured Roth carrying out his love of rock climbing.
His third solo record saw a change in guitar player with Vai leaving to be replaced by Jason Becker and after MTV banned the video for the title track ‘A Little Ain’t Enough’ the record only managed Gold. Becker was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis a form of Motor Neurons disease which meant he struggled to finish recording the record and couldn’t tour which was a major set back. Roth struggled under the emergence of Grunge and his decline was rapid with more than half the albums tour getting canceled due to poor ticket sales.
Roth did go on to make a further three albums with the last being 2003s ‘Diamond Dave’ which in fairness was mostly covers two of them were almost ten years old that had never been used. Roth was seemingly on the scrap heap – losing his locks and with music moving on so quickly he was in danger of being left behind. IT was in 2007 when news broke of an original Van Halen reunion but this time there was to be no Anthony in the lineup and due to Eddie’s illness he didn’t attend the induction into the Hall Of Fame and it was turning into a bit of a shower.
Roth did not attend the ceremony and the event was considered yet another public shit shower for the band. It was rumored to be based on the choice of songs to be played Roth wanted to perform ‘Jump’, but Velvet Revolver would only agree to play “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” or “You Really Got Me.” When it was finally agreed upon that Paul Shaffer would perform “Jump,” Roth claimed there was no longer enough time to rehearse and opted not to attend the ceremony. Leaving Anthony and Sammy Hagar to acknowledge Roth’s contribution to the iconic band. Later that year Roth and Eddie Van Halen held a press conference to announce, finally, things were on the up for the band’s reunion. In 2012 the band finally released ‘A Different Kind of Truth’. In a different time, things might have been so different however this album charted at number two on the Billboard charts but only sold 400,000 copies compared to earlier sales of early albums its dwarfed.
In that same year Roth began broadcasting a video webcast on his YouTube channel, and also on iTunes, called ‘The Roth Show’. Roth has lived in Tokyo since May 2012 but maintains homes in New York City and California. Today Diamond Dave is 65 years young. Happy Birthday David Lee Roth!