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Why Sammy Hagar Says He's "Never Been Friends" With David Lee Roth

The Van Halen frontmen have never gotten along, even when they were co-headlining a tour.

Hard rock band Van Halen survived the near-impossible when original lead singer David Lee Roth left the band in 1985. Recruiting "I Can't Drive 55" singer and former Montrose member Sammy Hagar to take Roth's place, the group went on to continued success with the 1986 album 5150 and a number of hit singles into the '90s.

But despite both singers ushering the band to rock domination—and both eventually having respective fallouts with late guitarist Eddie Van Halen—Van Halen's two most notable vocalists (Extreme's Gary Cherone briefly joined the band in 1996) have never found much common ground. In a March 2023 interview on The Opie & Anthony Show, Hagar dished on his contentious relationship with Roth, asserting that they've "never been friends." Read on to find out more about the rock stars' off-and-on feud.

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Roth is nothing like his onstage persona, according to Hagar.

David Lee Roth performing in 1978
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Known for his outsized showmanship, Roth was onboard for Van Halen's critically acclaimed breakthrough album, 1978's Van Halen. Bringing a signature mix of sleaze, goofiness, and acrobatics to the stage, he fronted some of the group's best-known early-'80s party-rock hits, including "Panama" and "Jump." But Hagar has claimed that, despite his boisterous demeanor, Roth is a bit of a drag.

Calling the other vocalist "a chest-beating [expletive]," Hagar said on the podcast Steve-O's Wild Ride in April 2023, "He ain't like his persona when you get around him." The 75-year-old also said, "He's not a fun guy. He doesn't play well with others. I'm not sure what his problem is… He just always is about, 'How can I make this guy look bad?' And not just me—in life."

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Roth said he and the band "always hated each other."

Van Halen in 1979
David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images

That alleged "chest-beating" reared its ugly head in the years after Roth's original departure from the band. While that move ultimately led to Van Halen fans being split into two camps—traditional Van Halen fans and so-called "Van Hagar" fans—there was even greater tension between Roth and the other members. When they released the 1988 album OU812 ("Oh, You Ate One Too"), rumors circulated it was a sly dig at Roth's recently titled "Eat 'Em and Smile," itself a rumored jab at his former band, according to SiriusXM.

While Roth eventually rejoined Van Halen in 2004 and stayed with the group until its official disbandment in 2020, it wasn't exactly done out of a sense of friendship. In a 2019 appearance on the WTF With Marc Maron podcast, the singer was clear that despite their creative success, he and the other original members of the band never got along, saying, "We have always hated each other, right up until the last phone call."

Roth and Hagar are not friends.

Sammy Hagar performing in 1993
Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)

According to Hagar, he and Diamond Dave get along no better. Earlier this year, during an appearance on The Opie & Anthony Show, he said,  "I've never been friends with Dave. I never even knew him. Him and I went on tour together and we did huge business, but we never spoke…He's a weird guy."

The tour he mentioned was the 2002 "Sam & Dave Tour," which launched on May 29, 2002. By then, Hagar too had left the band, telling USA Today this past April that substance use and personal issues were behind his 1996 departure. This allowed Hagar and Roth to play 21 dates together "Sans Halen"—although they refused to share a stage. "We don't know each other well enough. I don't trust him," Hagar told MTV at the time.

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A literal wall was built between them.

David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar presenting at the VMAs in 2002
Kevin Kane/WireImage

That lack of trust soon devolved to a point that tour managers separated them with a makeshift barricade built of plywood. "They made the wall since we nearly got into fisticuffs one night," Hagar told Rolling Stone in 2022. "The promoters were like 'Oh, we gotta keep these guys apart. This tour's doing too good. We don't want to see it break up because there's some lawsuit.'"

Hagar went on to claim that Roth never acknowledged him when he'd try to get him to join him onstage. "I'd be beating on the thing and I would say, 'Dave, I'm going on. Come on up in about an hour and we'll play a couple tunes together.' He wouldn't even respond."

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Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller is a pop culture writer living in New York. Read more
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