After Van Halen’s TV appearances on Kimmel and Ellen last week, my Facebook wall was full of “what’s up with Dave?” comments. They were roughly equally divided between “why can’t he sing like he used to?” and “why is he such a geek?”.
Let’s address the former first. He can and does totally sing like he used to. He was never a “singer”, and that was never the point. Dave was party. Dave was showtime. As Eddie once stated, “Al and me are musicians. Dave’s a rock star”.
Every singer loses some range as they age, and Dave is no exception. The guy is 60, and he’s been screaming his lungs out for 40 of those years. Being the frontman of a touring rock band is one of the gnarliest thing you can do to your vocal chords. Mick Jagger sounds like shit too, but nobody goes to hear DLR or Mick, they all go to see DLR and Mick. Cut the guy some slack. I’ll put money on none of you being able to do what he does at 60. Or ever.
Here are two versions of Hot For Teacher separated by 31 years. They aren’t markedly different, all things considered.
Now lets address his “weirdness”. I’m with ya’ll on this. How does a guy who could reasonably be argued to have been the coolest guy on earth in the late 70’s and early 80’s now come off being such a caricature? Where did that over-the-top Cheshire grin come from?
How about a brain injury or a brain tumour? Those appear to be some pretty intense scars. Not new. Maybe they date from his childhood, and were there under his mane the whole time. I don’t know…but those didn’t come without some collateral damage, I wouldn’t think. Dave’s oddness isn’t recent. I remember seeing him on Leno sometime in the 90’s or early 00’s, and he was like he is now.
DLR was always a guy ready to take physical risks. He spent years travelling around and doing crazy shit with his pals “The Jungle Studs”. He’s a martial arts expert. He also speaks at least 3 languages, just to give you an idea of how he’s wired.
Alpha Male? Yes. Textbook, in my professional opinion.
Here’s the cover of his second solo album. That’s DLR hanging off the face of the 3000 foot El Capitan in Yosemite.
Maybe ol’ Dave cracked his noggin doing something you and I would never dream of. He’s notoriously tight lipped when it comes to medical issues. He gave EVH shit for talking about his hip replacement. That’s partly what derailed the first reunion attempt in the 90’s. Big backstage blowout. “Show no weakness” is one of his mantras, it would seem.
Or maybe he had cancer? At Dave Grohl’s birthday party in January, Dave was bald. Fashion choice? Maybe. Chemo to deal with a relapse? Maybe. He’s also been looking pretty gaunt lately.
Or maybe it’s just age, pure and simple.
Whatever the case, David Lee Roth has always been a hero of mine. I love how he rolls. I love his approach. I’m a little dismayed at his on-stage behaviour over the last decade or so, but I’ll defend him right to the end. Call me a fanboy if you want, I don’t care.
If the future of our planet ever comes down to an intergalactic battle of the bands, I’ll confidently nominate Roth-era Van Halen to save us all.
Hope you’re OK, Dave. Call me if you want to talk.