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Roth, David Lee

David Lee Roth

Singer, songwriter

Infamous as the lead vocalist and colorful frontman for Van Halen, one of America's most popular hard-rock bands, David Lee Roth turned solo artist in 1985. After the enormous success of his extended play album Crazy From the Heat, Roth, in a decision that stunned Van Halen fans, decided to leave the group permanently. Although many of Van Halen's followers feared that neither he nor Van Halen would survive the split, each has continued to dazzle rock and roll devotees. Roth, flamboyant as ever, has managed to keep his talents in the public eye with videos and albums such as Eat 'em and Smile and Skyscraper.

Born in Bloomington, Indiana, the rock star remembered being introduced to music fairly early in life. His father, an ophthalmologist, presented him, at age seven, with recordings by jazz artist Al Jolson—still one of Roth's heroes—and at age eight he began listening to Ray Charles sing on the radio. Summer visits to his Uncle Manny, who operated the famed Greenwich Village Cafe Wha, were also influential, enabling him to see a variety of performers. By the time he was a teenager, the aspiring musician, then living with his family in California, was singing solo as well as with a group called the Red Ball Jets.

Another Los Angeles area group, Mammoth—comprised of a bass player and the two Dutch immigrant Van Halen brothers, Alex on drums and Edward singing and playing lead guitar—occasionally rented the Red Ball Jets' PA system. They were impressed with Roth and soon invited him to join them as lead vocalist (later joking that all they really wanted was his amplification equipment), and the group was eventually completed with the permanent addition of Mike Anthony on bass. Around 1974, after discovering that another group already owned the copyright to the name Mammoth, the group renamed itself Van Halen and began its struggle for fame and fortune.

The fledgling band seized the opportunity to play wherever and whenever it could, with its members doing everything for themselves, from securing engagements to promotional work. Performing both original songs and established tunes, Van Halen eventually became a local success and began to open for such established acts as UFO and Santana; they also became a regular feature at the Starwood Club, the West Coast's portal to fame. It was during their four-month stint there that they were "discovered." First, Gene Simmons, bass player for the rock band Kiss, helped the group produce their first demo tape, then Warner Brothers' Ted Templeman came to the Starwood, heard the group, and signed them to a contract with his label.

Released in 1978, the band's first album, Van Halen, brought the group national attention. The album was a smashing success, with more than two million copies sold, and the original members of Van Halen went on to release five more successful albums over the next seven years. Unlike many up-and-coming groups, the increasingly popular Van Halen never lacked press coverage, which was generated by its members' wild lifestyles as often as by its music.

More than any other band member, Roth is credited with promoting Van Halen's image as the quintessential rock band, one devoted to a lifestyle described by David Fricke in Rolling Stone as "a nonstop booze-and-babes party train." An on-stage rowdy, Roth became an expert at sexist slapstick. In the opinion of Carl Arrington, writing for People, Roth "helped gild the group's head-banger image … with mock-macho stage posturing and costumes that looked like they were ripped off the backs of passing lions." But if, as Arrington suggested, Roth fostered the image of himself as a "renaissance rocker," the critic also found him "less a fraud than most good actors or successful politicians." According to Arrington, Roth has played the part so long that "his concert persona and offstage personality [are] closer than most of his peers."

Sometimes referred to as "the bad boy of rock and roll" and "Mr. Bigmouth," Roth was also famous for his off-stage antics. There were reports about the rocker's antipathy toward marriage, his refusal to permit other band members' wives to go on tour with the group, and of nude girls dancing on tabletops backstage. Interviewing the star for Rolling Stone, Nancy Collins asked if the Van Halen backstage scene was really "akin to a bacchanalian feast." Roth, a student of karate, responded: "It's excessive. In terms of the fringe benefits you're supposed to get from rock & roll, I'd say we're black belts."

Despite his propensity for debauchery, Roth earned applause for his abilities as a lyricist and singer. The generally simple lyrics worked in harmony with the musical scores composed by Edward Van Halen to create the band's trademark tunes, tunes that helped transform Van Halen, in Fricke's words, into "the monster rock action squad that ruled the charts and the airwaves for seven years."

In 1985, after some much publicized squabbling, Roth decided to leave Van Halen and try his luck as an independent artist. With his first solo album, Crazy From the Heat, already a best-seller, and with a movie contract in the offing, Roth became the focus of even more rumors than usual, most speculating that he had simply become too egotistical to continue working with the group. But after the initial furor subsided, Van Halen and Roth set about proving that each could survive in the music world without the other. Although Roth's movie career never materialized, he continued his video work and recorded new albums. The star's 1986 Eat 'em and Smile sold more than two million copies, and in 1988 he released Skyscraper.

Roth followed in 1991 with A Little Ain't Enough, an album that reached Billboard's Top 200 chart and spawned three mainstream rock tracks, "Tell the Truth," "Sensible Shoes," and the album's title track. In 1994 Roth released Your Filthy Little Mouth, a stylistically diverse album featuring a duet with country singer Travis Tritt. The album, however, sold fewer copies than previous releases, and the artist toured in smaller venues. In 1995 Roth opened a lounge act in Las Vegas accompanied by a brass band and exotic dancers.

Roth reunited with Van Halen to much fanfare in 1996, recording two new songs that were included on Best Of, Vol. 1 and appearing with the group at the MTV Video Music Awards. Soon, however, Eddie Van Halen had fired Roth from the band, stating that the reunion was only temporary. In 1997 Roth quickly landed on his feet, publishing a memoir, Crazy From the Heat. Aidin Vaziri of the San Francisco Chronicle called the autobiography "a vastly entertaining postcard from rock 'n' roll's halcyon days." Speaking of the book, Roth told Vaziri: "What you have here is a very conversational tone, just as if we ran into each other at one of our finer local drinking establishments. Like any good story, it's the truth told well. It is the only way I know how to communicate."

For the Record …

Born on October 10, 1955, in Bloomington, IN; son of Nathan (an ophthalmologist) and Sybil Roth. Education: Attended Pasadena City College.

Vocalist with rock group Red Ball Jets in California, early 1970s; vocalist with band Mammoth, renamed Van Halen, 1974–85; solo performer, 1985–; issued EP Crazy From the Heat, 1985, and the full length Eat 'em And Smile, 1986; released Skyscraper, 1988, A Little Ain't Enough, 1991, and Your Filthy Little Mouth, 1994; re-united briefly with Van Halen, 1996; released DLR Band, 1998, and Diamond Dave, 2003; worked as radio talk show host for CBS, 2006; participated on the recording Strummin' With the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen, 2006.

Addresses: Record company—Warner Brothers Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505, website: http://www.warnerbrosrecords.com.

Rumors of a Van Halen reunion continued to swirl in the rock press in 2001, but failed to materialize. In 2003 Roth issued Diamond Dave, a covers album that included versions of the Doors' "Soul Kitchen" and Jimi Hendrix's "If 6 Was 9." In 2004 Roth made a cameo appearance as a poker player in the hit HBO series The Sopranos. He also chopped off his trademark long hair and trained to become a paramedic, riding with ambulance crews in New York City. "I have been on over 200 individual rides now," Roth told Erika Martinez at Fox News. "Not once has anyone recognized me, which is perfect for me." In 2006 Roth began working as a talk show personality, replacing Howard Stern on CBS Radio, though his residency only lasted a few months. During the same year he also contributed to versions of "Jump" and "Jamie's Crying" for a blue-grass tribute album, Strummin' With the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen. "I'm the aberration," he told Rafer Guzman in Newsday. "A 50-year-old who still commits to dangerous and new pursuits."

Selected discography

With Van Halen

Van Halen, Warner Brothers, 1978.
Van Halen II, Warner Brothers, 1979.
Women and Children First, Warner Brothers, 1980.
Fair Warning, Warner Brothers, 1981.
Diver Down, Warner Brothers, 1982.
1984, Warner Brothers, 1984.

Solo albums

Crazy From the Heat, (EP), Warner Brothers, 1985.
Eat 'em and Smile, Warner Brothers, 1986.
Skyscraper, Warner Brothers, 1988.
A Little Ain't Enough, Warner Brothers, 1991.
Your Filthy Little Mouth, Warner Brothers, 1994.
Best of Volume 1, Warner Brothers, 1996.
DLR Band, Wawazat, 1998.
Diamond Dave, Magna Carta, 2003.
(Contributor) Strummin' With the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen, CMH, 2006.

Sources

Books

Kaye, Annene, Van Halen, J. Messner, 1985.

Matthews, Gordon, Van Halen, Ballantine Books, 1984.

Periodicals

Musician, February 1986.

Newsday, June 25, 2006.

People, February 11, 1985; June 23, 1986; September 29, 1986.

Rolling Stone, June 21, 1984; April 11, 1985; August 15, 1985; July 3, 1986.

San Francisco Chronicle, November 2, 1997, p. 50.

Online

"David Lee Roth a NYC Paramedic," Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/ (June 10, 2006).

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"Roth, David Lee." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Roth, David Lee." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/roth-david-lee-0

Roth, David Lee

David Lee Roth

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Infamous as the lead vocalist and colorful frontman for Van Halen, one of Americas most popular hard-rock bands, David Lee Roth turned solo artist in 1985. Indeed, after the enormous success of his extended play album Crazy From the Heat, Roth, in a decision that stunned Van Halen fans, decided to leave the group permanently. Although many of Van Halens followers feared that neither he nor the band would survive the split, each has continued to dazzle rock and roll devotees. Roth, flamboyant as ever, has managed to keep his talents in the public eye with masterful videos and such albums as Eat em and Smile and Skyscraper.

Born in Bloomington, Indiana, the rock star remembers being introduced to music fairly early in life. His father, an ophthalmologist, presented him, at age seven, with recordings by jazz artist AI Jolsonstill one of Roths heroesand at age eight he began listening to Ray Charles sing on the radio. Summer visits to his Uncle Manny, who operated the famed Greenwich Village Cafe Wha, were also influential, enabling him to view a variety of performers. By the time he was a teenager the aspiring musician, then living with his family in California, was singing solo as well as with a group called the Red Ball Jets.

Another Los Angeles area group, Mammothcomprised of a bass player and the two Dutch-immigrant Van Halen brothers, Alex on drums and Edward singing and playing lead guitaroccasionally rented the Red Ball Jets PA system. They were impressed with Roth and soon invited him to join them as lead vocalist (later joking that all they really wanted was his amplification equipment), and the group was eventually completed with the permanent addition of Mike Anthony on bass. Around 1974, after discovering that another group already owned the copyright to the name Mammoth, the group renamed itself Van Halen and began its struggle for fame and fortune.

The fledgling band seized the opportunity to play wherever and whenever it could, with its members doing everything for themselves, from securing engagements to promotional work. Performing both original songs and established tunes, Van Halen eventually became a local success and began to routinely open for such established acts as UFO and Santana; they also became a regular feature at the Starwood Club, the West Coast venue to fame. It was during their four-month stint there, in fact, that they were discovered. First, Gene Simmons, bass player for the rock band Kiss, helped the group produce their first demo tape, then Warner Brothers Ted Templeman came to the Starwood, heard the group, and signed them to a contract with his label.

For the Record

Born October 10, 1955, in Bloomington, Ind.; son of Nathan (an ophthalmologist) and Sybil Roth. Education: Attended Pasadena City College.

Vocalist with rock group Red Ball Jets in California in the early 1970s; vocalist with band Mammoth, renamed Van Halen, 1974-85; solo performer, 1985.

Addresses: Home Pasadena, CA. Office c/o Warner Brothers Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505.

Released in 1978, the bands first album, Van Halen, brought the group national attention. The album was a smashing success with more than two million copies sold, and the original members of Van Halen went on to release five more successful albums over the next seven years. Unlike many up-and-coming groups, the increasingly popular Van Halen never lacked press coverage, which was generated by its members wild lifestyles as often as by its music.

More than any other band member, Roth is credited with promoting Van Halens image as the quintessential rock band, one devoted to a lifestyle described by David Fricke in Rolling Stone as a nonstop booze-and-babes party train. An on-stage rowdy, Roth became an expert at sexist slapstick who, in the opinion of Carl Arrington, writing for People, helped gild the groups head-banger image with mock-macho stage posturing and costumes that looked like they were ripped off the backs of passing lions. But if, as Arrington suggested, Roth has fostered the image of himself as a renaissance rocker, the critic also found him less a fraud than most good actors or successful politicians. According to Arrington, Roth has played the part so long that his concert persona and offstage personality [are] closer than most of his peers.

Sometimes referred to as the bad boy of rock and roll and Mr. Bigmouth, Roth, in fact, is just as famous for his off-stage antics. Reports abound of the rockers antipathy toward marriage, his refusal to permit other band members wives to go on tour with the group, and of nude girls dancing on tabletops backstage as well as of his party-till-you-drop philosophy. Interviewing the star for Rolling Stone, Nancy Collins asked if the Van Halen backstage scene was really akin to a bacchanalian feast. Roth, a student of karate, responded: Its excessive. In terms of the fringe benefits youre supposed to get from rock & roll, Id say were black belts.

Despite his propensity for debauchery, Roth has earned applause for his abilities as a lyricist and singer. With a friend at the wheel of his 1951 Mercury convertible, Roth pens his words while cruising around the Los Angeles canyons. The generally simple lyrics work in harmony with the musical scores composed by Edward Van Halen to create the bands trademark tunes, tunes that helped transform Van Halen, in Frickes words, into the monster rock action squad that ruled the charts and the airwaves for seven years.

In 1985, after some much publicized squabbling, Roth decided to leave Van Halen and try his luck as an independent artist. With his first solo album, Crazy From the Heat, already a best-seller and a movie contract in the offing, Roth became the focus of even more rumors than usual, most speculating that he had simply become too egotistical to continue working with the group. But after the initial furor subsided, Van Halen and Roth set about proving that each could survive in the music world without the other.

Although Roths movie career never materialized, he has continued his ingenious video work as well as recorded new albums. The stars 1986 Eat em and Smile has sold more than two million copies, and in 1988 he released Skyscraper. Whats most important to Roth, however, whether alone or with a group, whether involved in showmanship, writing lyrics, or singing, is to be rockin. That, he told Collins, is all I ever really wanted to do.

Selected discography

With Van Halen

Van Halen, Warner Brothers, 1978.

Van Halen II, Warner Brothers, 1979.

Women and Children First, Warner Brothers, 1980.

Fair Warning, Warner Brothers, 1981.

Diver Down, Warner Brothers, 1982.

1984, Warner Brothers, 1984.

Solo Albums

Crazy From the Heat (EP), Warner Brothers, 1985.

Eat em and Smile, Warner Brothers, 1986.

Skyscraper, Warner Brothers, 1988.

Sources

Books

Kaye, Annene, Van Halen, J. Messner, 1985.

Matthews, Gordon, Van Halen, Ballantine Books, 1984.

Periodicals

Musician, February, 1986.

People, February 11, 1985; June 23, 1986; September 29, 1986.

Rolling Stone, June 21, 1984; April 11, 1985; August 15, 1985; July3, 1986.

Nancy H. Evans

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Roth, David Lee." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Roth, David Lee." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/roth-david-lee

"Roth, David Lee." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/roth-david-lee