David Lee Roth
Synopsis of Pop Music
“Show me your bright lights and your city lights, all right,
I’m talking ‘bout a Yankee Rose…”
One of the biggest lounge-act showmen in rock and roll history, David Lee Roth balanced out the fiery guitar work of Eddie Van Halen in the original Van Halen lineup. Over the course of more than a decade of gigs and six studio albums with the band, the singer/daredevil won fans over with his outlandish style, just as ready to execute a backflip as he was to belt out a libidinous lyric. “Diamond Dave” always had more than a little Vegas in him, and the release of a 1985 solo EP, Crazy From the Heat, proved that he knew the old standards.
Covering everything from the Beach Boys (“California Girls”) to Louis Prima (“Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”), Roth managed to pull it off by combining campy rock star swagger with a series of hilarious, babe-filled videos on MTV. Roth decided to leave Van Halen in 1985, forming his own supergroup with ace musicians Steve Vai (former Frank Zappa guitarist), Billy Sheehan (bassist for Talas) and drummer Gregg Bissonette (formerly of Maynard Ferguson).
1986 brought the release of Roth’s first full studio album, Eat ‘Em and Smile, which alternated between the lounge lizard covers (“Tobacco Road,” “That’s Life”) and the kinds of hard party rockers that had made Van Halen such a smash (“Yankee Rose,” the album’s lead-off single and a #16 hit, opened with a vocal/guitar conversation between Roth and Vai that had to be heard to be believed). Roth’s over-the-top sense of humor carried over into the band’s videos, notably the convenience store intro to "Yankee Rose" ("Gimme a bottle of anything, and a glazed donut, to go-go-go-go-go") and “Goin’ Crazy,” which featured Roth in a heavy bodysuit and fat makeup as a sleazy record executive (“I can’t think, I’m dancin’!”)
“Diamond Dave” and his backup wizards continued to wow in concert, staging elaborate stunts and maintaining a vigorous pace from the start to the final encore. The album was a worldwide hit, as was Van Halen’s first post-Dave LP, proving that each side could survive and even thrive without the other.
Roth’s 1988 album, Skyscraper, featured a shift toward more radio-friendly, synth-driven pop rock. “Just Like Paradise” gave the group a #6 single, “Skyscraper” took Roth in experimental new directions, while “Hot Dog and a Shake” proved the guys could still rock with the best. The album was another big hit, but Sheehan left the group shortly after Skyscraper’s release, forming Mr. Big the following year (Matt Bissonette stepped in on bass).
Steve Vai also decided to pursue new avenues (releasing solo albums and even joining Whitesnake for a brief stint), but Roth soon found another guitar virtuoso in Jason Becker. With Becker, guitarist Steve Hunter, the Bissonettes and keyboardist Brett Tuggle, Roth released a new album in 1991, A Little Ain’t Enough. Roth’s bombast and reputation brought the album into the Top-20, but neither that album nor its 1994 follow-up, Your Filthy Little Mouth, were the kinds of chart-topping successes that Roth’s earlier solo work had been.
Roth reunited with Van Halen for two new songs and a walk-on at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, but hopes of a permanent reunion were dashed when both sides issued sniping, conflicting press releases after yet another falling out. Roth continued his solo career, writing an autobiography (Crazy from the Heat), packaging a Rhino greatest hits collection (The Best) and forming the new DLR Band for a 1998 album (simply titled DLR Band).
“Diamond Dave” continues to be a grandstanding rock and roll showboat (not an insult in this business), and fans of the original Van Halen lineup hope that Roth will rejoin the band—currently without a lead singer—for one more go-round. But for now, fans of hard rock with a Las Vegas swing can rest assured that “Diamond Dave” still has the same old swagger, still crazy after all these years.
“Oh, I say mama,
A lil’ ain’t enough for me…”
Artist Release History1985 - Crazy From the Heat
1986 - Eat 'Em and Smile
1988 - Skyscraper
1991 - A Little Ain't Enough
1994 - Your Filthy Little Mouth
1997 - The Best
1998 - DLR Band
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsThe Best (Rhino)
Band MembersDavid Lee Roth vocals
Steve Vai guitar
Billy Sheehan bass
Gregg Bissonette drums