No matter how hard they may be to sing all these years later, Sammy Hagar said there are certain Van Halen songs he has to keep singing. They’re just too important not to.
Hagar was a guest on the syndicated interview series Kyle Meredith With… to talk about his latest Sammy Hagar & The Circle release ‘Lockdown 2020’, which includes current recordings of the Van Halen tracks “Good Enough”, “Right Now” and “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)”. One song not included is “Dreams” although he and The Circle did record a live version of it for their 2015 concert album ‘At Your Service…’. It’s a song Hagar said is the hardest of all the Sammy-era Van Halen songs for him to sing these days but also one he could never leave off of a setlist.
“That is the highest song ever,” said Hagar. “I can’t even sing that way. Even back then I had to cheat when we did it live and now we tune down a whole step. I do a slow version of it where we’ve even changed the key in order to do it because it’s such a great song. I love that song.
“I don’t know what I was thinking, man, when I walked in that studio that day,” he continued. “Mick Jones [the producer of ‘5150’] says, ‘What about this little piano thing Eddie’s got?’ the little synth part, and I go, ‘Yeah, that’s cool, let me just see how I can sing to it,’ and I start singing, ‘HIGHER AND HIGHER!’ and I’m goin’, ‘Wow , I can hit those notes,’ and Mick’s goin, ‘Holy shit!’ ya know? And we did it. I started writing the lyrics and just did it and then I’m goin, ‘Woah!’ Every time I tried to sing it live – it’s a song you don’t sing backstage. You get on stage, eighteen thousand people screamin’, you’re all fired up, then you give it a shot but you don’t sit around the house sayin’, ‘Let me warm up on that song.'”
Van Halen “Dreams” (1986):
Sammy & Hagar & The Circle “Dreams” (2015):
Another song Hagar said is a challenge to sing is “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)” originally recorded for Van Halen’s 1995’s ‘Balance’ album.
“I did paint myself into a corner there ‘cuz I started real low,” said Hagar. “That’s another one Jason [Bonham, The Circle drummer] challenged me [for the ‘Lockdown 2020’ album]. [He said] ‘Let’s do that song!’ So we lowered the key a little bit. But I hit the notes, I feel pretty good about that. Hey listen man, gettin’ old is fucked up!” [laughs]
Van Halen “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)” (1995):
Sammy Hagar & The Circle “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)” (2020):
As for the 1991 song “Right Now”, Hagar said it’s probably the most important of all the tracks he recorded with Van Halen to sing today.
“It’s amazing how that song is becoming timeless,” said Hagar. “It came from a timeless place. I had been reading a Zen philosophy book when we were working on [the] ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ [album]. That’s an old Zen philosophy – Be here right now. Be in the now. So it being that meaningful and deep of a consciousness to begin with, where it came from, it does do well in the future. It goes right along with the times and it’ll always be a valid thing to say.”
Hagar talked about playing “Right Now” live on October 8th during his Birthday Bash concert. He performed it in honor of Eddie Van Halen, who had passed just two days earlier. By Hagar’s side that day was original Van Halen bassist and current Circle band member Michael Anthony.
“It was difficult but that song, it made it all make sense,” said Hagar. “[I said] ‘What are we gonna do Mike? Well, we’re gonna play this music. Right now we’re gonna play it and we’re gonna play it again in the future and music is gonna carry on from us, that’s all we can do.’ I can’t help what happened to Eddie and it’s horrible but I can play the music for the fans and make sure it never dies. That song ‘Right Now’, more than any, is the one that says it all.”
Van Halen “Right Now” (1991):
Sammy Hagar & The Circle “Right Now” (2020):
Hagar also revealed that he had the chance to share some of the music that ended up on ‘Lockdown 2020’ with Eddie before he passed along with Hagar’s recent recording of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Hagar said Eddie, in return, sent Hagar some of Wolfgang Van Halen’s new music. You can watch the entire interview below: