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June 3, 2020

SAMMY HAGAR Says He Is Not To Blame For VAN HALEN's Increased Reliance On Keyboards


Sammy Hagar has shot down the widespread belief that he was responsible for the increased reliance on keyboards during his time with VAN HALEN.

Even though Hagar‘s years with VAN HALEN were the band’s most successful in terms of chart success, MTV exposure and Grammy Awards, the group’s music became a little more commercial while still maintaining that classic VAN HALEN sound thanks to Eddie Van Halen‘s guitar work and the blazing Michael Anthony/Alex Van Halen rhythm section.

During an appearance earlier today (Tuesday, April 7) on SiriusXM‘s “Trunk Nation”, Hagar and Anthony both denied that Sammy was to blame for VAN HALEN pursuing a more keyboard-heavy sound that incorporated emerging pop trends at the expense of the rawer, more muscular sound that the band was previously known for.

“Finally I get my soapbox here,” Hagar said (hear audio below). “Everyone blamed me for the freakin’ keyboard playing on the ‘Van Hagar’ era, starting with [1986’s] ‘5150’. On [1988’s] ‘OU812’, we went very keyboard-oriented. I didn’t do any of that. That’s what Eddie did. Eddie wanted to do that. He liked playing keyboards, and he was freakin’ good at it. He wrote these beautiful songs like ‘When It’s Love’ and ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’, it’s such a cool lick…”

“One Ed really got into the keyboard thing, he [didn’t] pick up his guitar for a long time, I remember,” Anthony interjected. “He was just playing keyboards all the time.”

“So it wasn’t like I was sitting here saying, ‘Hey, man. Let’s do some more keyboards,'” Hagar continued. “I’m sitting here saying, ‘What have you got, Ed?’ And he goes, ‘I’ve got this.’ And I’m going, ‘Wow, that’s great. I could sing to it,’ ’cause I could sing to any damn thing. So I’d start singing. Ed would go, ‘Oh, man, this is so cool.’ And, of course, Valerie [Bertinelli, Eddie‘s then-wife] would come in and validate it. When she heard ‘Love Walks In’, she just [said], ‘Oh my God.’ And Eddie‘s going, ‘Oh, man. My wife’s happy, so I’m happy.’ And I’m going, ‘Well, I’m happy.’ And we had success and all that.

“I kind of always got blamed for the keyboard songs and it was not me whatsoever. I’m a damn guitar player. Every time I would pick up — like for ‘Finish What Ya Started’ or something like that — when I would instigate a song, it was a guitar song, ’cause I don’t play keyboards. So it wasn’t me. I just went along with what we had, and if it wouldn’t have been good, I wouldn’t have went along with it. I would have said, ‘This sucks.’ But it didn’t.

“The part that’s most impressive to me is what a good keyboard player Eddie Van Halen is. He’s got a left hand on the freakin’ keyboard that’s as good as freakin’ Bootsy Collins on the bass, man. He’s funky with that left hand. Listen to ‘When It’s Love’, man.”

Hagar replaced David Lee Roth in VAN HALEN in 1985 and recorded four studio albums with the band — “5150”, “OU812”, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” and “Balance” — all of which topped the U.S. chart. The highest-charting Roth-led VAN HALEN album was a No. 2, and it took until “1984” to achieve that. (2012’s “A Different Kind Of Truth” also landed at No. 2.)

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