Written by Chuck Crowder
Wednesday, 08 October 2008 21:27
This Friday (Oct. 10th) marks the 54th birthday of rock ‘n roll’s number-two best
front man of all time: (Diamond) David Lee Roth. I say number two, because
it’s widely understood that Mick Jagger has held the top spot since
basically the beginning of rock as we know it.
Diamond David Lee Roth Turns 54
David Lee Roth’s signature vocals and screams, amazing stage acrobatics
and zany off-stage antics have definitely secured his place in rock’s
number-two slot, at least in my opinion.
And there’s not a Roger Daltrey or Robert Plant who can hold a candle to
his bonfire of charisma.
That’s because Roth is/was the consummate California heavy metal rock ‘n
roller. With his flowing blond locks, spandex stagewear, a bright smile
and smart-ass quick wit, there has never been (and probably never will be)
another example of “entertainment” quite like him.
Onstage, as the original lead singer of Van Halen, Roth’s incredible
showmanship could actually draw your attention away from the innovative
hammer fingers of one of rock’s most acclaimed guitar giants, Eddie Van
Halen. I know, because I was privy to a Roth-driven Halen show on three
different occasions, including the Roundhouse in ’83.
Each show would start with the lights blasting bright, just in time for
you to see Roth in a mid-air leg split off the drum riser, as the band
kicked into crowd-fave “Unchained.” Then he’d prance around the stage in
full command of the sold-out crowd, taunting the screaming young ladies up
front, and leaving just about every dude in the house wishing they were
him. Tremendous jumps, leaps, twists, thrusts–along with samurai sword
and karate routines–would ensure the backstage area was full of ladies
ready to be the next notch on his tasseled leather belt.
Offstage, Roth was the consummate rock personality, attending all of the
movie premieres and MTV-sponsored events and awards shows with the style
and flair of someone who was just ready to have a good time. He was ALWAYS
interviewed by anyone who could grab his attention, because his gift of
gab and lighthearted, but sometimes off-color, comments immediately turned
all eyes and ears to what he’d say next.
But despite his magnetic personality, he wasn’t so much the critics’
darling. Rolling Stone called him “the most obnoxious singer in human
history, an achievement notable in the face of long tradition and heavy
competition.” Ouch. In fact, most journalists at the time took everything
Roth stood for with a grain of salt, largely due to his unapologetic
pursuit of placing good times on the same level as good performance. And
for him, it worked. But since he didn’t take himself very seriously, no
one else did either–including his bandmates.
Tensions among the band escalated during the 1984 tour. Roth continually
made crude (but funny) onstage comments about the happy couple of Eddie
Van Halen and then-wife Valerie Bertinelli, much to the dismay of both the
band and fans alike. After the tour, Van Halen’s desire to incorporate
more keyboards into their music (after their number-one hit “Jump”) and
propensity for writing power ballads flew in the face of the traditional
guitar-metal proponent Roth. So he left the band and did his own thing.
In fact, Diamond Dave went Vegas on us. And it rocked. His covers of
“California Girls” and “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” were the first
tunes out of the shoot when the other Van Halens were still busy hiring
Sammy Hagar to replace him. Both videos were riddled with bikini babes and
funny characters who were nothing less than brilliant. The latter hit
featured Roth bouncing from movie set to movie set, interrupting
production while being adored by the various types of female fans in each
My favorite part of the song is the break when he scats “Hum-a-ba-zee-ba-
la-hum-a-ba-zee-ba-la-hum-a-ba-zee-ba-la-be-ba-la-bot — I-I-I-I-I-I-ain’t
got no-bahahahadey.” Pure Roth.