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29 Years Ago: David Lee Roth Quits Van Halen

David Lee Roth
Richard E. Aaron, Getty Images

Though long-time fans likely hoped it was an April Fool’s joke gone terribly wrong, original frontman David Lee Roth did in fact quit Van Halen 29 years ago today, on April 1, 1985.

The group, featuring guitarist wonder Eddie Van Halen were then in the midst of a seven-year run of huge albums and sold-out tours. In fact, they had just scored a first-ever chart topper with ‘Jump.’ Despite this obvious setback, a retooled Van Halen would maintain its commercial momentum with the addition of Sammy Hagar, though the move sparked a war of words that lasted for decades.

“Sammy does his job; he does well,” Roth memorably told Howard Stern, in a 1997 interview. “Sammy’s a singer, but it’s the difference between a single word. Sammy is a singer, David Lee is the singer.”

Roth exited Van Halen having already released a platinum-selling four-song EP on December 31, 1984, ‘Crazy from the Heat,’ which had spawned a pair of heavy-rotation videos focusing on remakes of ‘California Girls’ and ‘Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody.’ A development deal with Columbia Pictures followed, though the proposed ‘Crazy from the Heat’ movie never materialized.

Roth also signed a solo recording contract with Warner Brothers, and released a pair of platinum albums between 1986-88 before beginning a long, often circuitous journey back toward his old band. Meanwhile, Hagar helped Van Halen to their first-ever No. 1 album with 1986’s ‘5150,’ before eventually departing a decade later.

By the 2000s, the two would find themselves switching out as frontmen for Van Halen. Roth recorded a pair of new songs for a 1996 greatest hits package that marked Hagar’s initial exit from the group. Roth then reportedly returned for a brief stint in 2001. Hagar, who now fronts Chickenfoot, rejoined Van Halen for a 2004 tour that ended in anger. Roth returned (seemingly for good) in 2007, and in 2012 the group released their first album in over a decade, ‘A Different Kind of Truth.’ The group is rumored to be currently working on a new record.

Next: Top 10 David Lee Roth Songs

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