Ballot Or The Bullet

Album: Van Halen III (1998)
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Songfacts®:

  • Van Halen fans have long debated over who was the band's best lead singer, Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth. But there is a little-known third option: Gary Cherone, who joined in 1996. Cherone, previously in the band Extreme, didn't launch the band into an exciting new era, as they hoped. He was with them for the 1998 Van Halen III album and subsequent tour, then left soon after. Eventually, Hagar returned to the band, then Roth.

    This is one of the more notable songs from the Cherone era. "Ballot Or The Bullet" is the tile of 1964 speech by Malcolm X where, in speaking of the civil rights struggle among Black Americans, said, "We're going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet."

    Van Halen was far from a political band, but this song saw them appropriating the Malcolm X speech to stir up action:

    The choice is up to you
    The ballot or the bullet
  • Van Halen fans didn't connect with the lyrics or lead vocals on this track, but Eddie Van Halen's guitar work was still on point. He didn't play a lot of slide guitar, but did on this one, showing just how versatile he was on the instrument. "There's a fantastic slide guitar solo on that song," Brad Tolinski, author of Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen, told Songfacts. "It almost makes you feel that Ed could have been playing slide guitar half of the time – it's just so good and so competent. For a guy who didn't play slide guitar that much, it's an amazing piece of work."

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