David Lee RothVocals1974-1985
Eddie Van HalenGuitar, vocals1974-2020
Alex Van HalenDrums1974-
Michael AnthonyBass, vocals1974-2007
Sammy HagarVocals1985-1996 2003-2005
Wolfgang Van HalenBass2007-
Years of jumping around on stage took a toll on Eddie. He had hip-replacement surgery in 1999. He also had cancer in his throat and tongue, which caused him to lose part of his tongue. That cancer claimed his life on October 6, 2020 - he was 65.
On their 1979 tour, David Lee Roth gave each of the crew members five backstage passes, which they were supposed to give to beautiful women. If Roth shacked up with one of the babes, he gave the roadie that got her in $100 the next day.
Eddie and Alex were born and raised in Holland. Their family moved to Pasadena, California in 1967, when Eddie was 10 and Alex was 12.
Eddie took piano lessons throughout his youth. He credits his understanding of classical music for his ability to write songs.
Eddie and Alex' father, Jan Van Halen, was a professional clarinet player.
Their original name was Mammoth, but they changed it after finding out another band had it first. It was Roth's idea to use the name Van Halen - Eddie and Alex didn't like it.
Roth was in a band called Redball Jet when he met Eddie and Alex. Michael Anthony met Alex at Pasadena City College.
Eddie had serious stage fright, and the only way he could perform early on was by having some drinks beforehand, which was something his dad suggested. He quickly became a very high-functioning alcoholic, but his drinking had a profound effect on his health, his personal relationships, and the band. He credited his wife Janie Liszewski, whom he met in 2006, with getting him sober, which he finally did around 2009. For most of 2008, Eddie sat around the house watching television and weaning himself off of alcohol.
In 1977, Gene Simmons saw them in concert and set up their first recording session. He flew them to New York and bought them new clothes, but the resulting demo still didn't get them a record deal. The record companies were reluctant to sign them because disco was in and rock was out.
On most of the songs, the music was written by Eddie and the lyrics by Roth or Hagar. The band shares songwriting credit, however, meaning that royalties are split equally regardless of who contributes.
Roth was hyperactive as a child and became a very high-energy adult. His demand for attention helped the band in the sense that it kept Eddie from having to do interviews or stage moves - Roth did all the talking and was happy to have his picture taken whenever possible.
"David was always a ham – he loved the camera and the camera loved him, and he knew it was important to get good photographs for the different magazines," photographer Mark Weiss told Songfacts
. "The other guys I would have to knock on the door and say, 'Hey, how about a picture?'"
Eddie married actress Valerie Bertinelli on April 11, 1981, when he was 25 and she was 21. They met the year before when she brought her brother, who was a huge Van Halen fan, backstage at a show in Shreveport, Louisiana.
In 1991 they had a son named Wolfgang, who inherited many of his dad's musical talents. Eddie and Valerie separated in 2001 and divorced in 2007.
Eddie was constantly working on his guitars. He would take them apart and piece them together until he got them just right.
They had a provision in their contract demanding M&Ms backstage with the brown ones removed. This was a way of seeing if the promoters read the contract. If they saw brown M&Ms, they knew there would be problems with the show.
In 2004, David Lee Roth turned his back on music and trained to be a paramedic. The same year, the band reunited with Hagar.
Tom - Trowbridge, England
Eddie started out as a drummer. Alex had a guitar, but while Eddie was out on his paper route (that he had to pay for his drums), Alex would play his drums. Eddie said, "Fine, play my drums, I'll play your guitar!"
Pat - Babylon, NY
Michael Anthony makes hot sauce. He has one called Mad Anthony's Hot Sauce.
When Van Halen first appeared, there was a rumor that the group were actually members of KISS without their makeup and attire. If you take a close look at early pics of them, David Lee Roth resembled Paul Stanley, Eddie Van Halen resembled Ace Frehley, and Michael Anthony resembled Gene Simmons. This rumor may had been fueled by Gene Simmons' discovery of the group, and the fact that Van Halen had appeared right around the time KISS had taken a break from the recording studio in 1977. The rumor was soon quelled when the individual members of KISS released their "solo" albums in 1978 around the same time Van Halen II
was released, and people began to really notice the height differential between Alex Van Halen and Peter Criss.
Randy - Colerain Twp., OH
Anthony's real last name is Sobolewski.
Van Halen reunited in 2007 with David Lee Roth joining Eddie and Alex, along with Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass. Sammy Hagar and Mike Anthony weren't invited to join them on tour, but they were the band's sole representatives at Van Halen's Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction that year.
Bertrand - Paris, France
Van Halen's 2008 tour rider contained a demand for a study room for bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, who was 16 then, and for his tutor. David Lee Roth insisted that his dressing room have no floor covering so he could practice martial arts in it.
In the early days, Eddie played his solos with his back to the audience so that other guitar players could not steal his moves, and also because of his stage freight.
Eddie Van Halen played the guitar solo on Michael Jackson's "Beat It
." He didn't ask for royalties - Eddie did it as a favor for Jackson's producer, Quincy Jones.
David Lee Roth aimed a lot of zingers at his detractors, which were often other musicians. One of these was directed at Sammy Hagar back in 1982 when they exchanged words in the press. "Sammy definitely has a social problem," Dave said in Creem. "I think it's based on lack of education."
Eddie Van Halen influenced expanded the range of rock guitar in ways that had a profound influence. Ty Tabor of King's X explained it this way
: "In the '70s, you had guys that played from the heart, but weren't necessarily technically awesome. And then you had technical players who were from the other side of the brain, and just left me totally cold. Well, the '80s brought the first group of guitarists I remember that put those two together. Eddie Van Halen is a good example of it - he was technically amazing, and yet he played from the heart."
When David Lee Roth left Van Halen in 1985 to embark on a solo career, Eddie offered the lead singer position to former Montrose lead vocalist Sammy Hagar after being introduced to him via their mutual Ferrari mechanic.
Eddie Van Halen approached several other vocalists to replace David Lee Roth before lining up Sammy Hagar. They included Journey's Steve Perry, Scandal's Patty Smyth, and even Hall & Oates' Daryl Hall