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Van Halen was formed when brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen began experimenting with their music together while still in high school. The Van Halen brothers had been raised by a father who was a musician, and who often played private parties such as weddings to help support the family. Alex and Eddie studied piano and classical music as children, but when the family moved from the Netherlands to California, they discovered a love of rock & roll. Eddie then learned to play drums, Alex guitar, and they started a band called Mammoth. David Lee Roth, already an established singer with another band, joined them, as did Michael Anthony. They changed the band’s name to Van Halen and embarked on a quest for stardom.
Van Halen performed in local bars and pubs throughout the Pasadena area for three years before Gene Simmons of KISS spotted them performing in 1977 and offered to help them finance a demo tape. Van Halen was signed to Warner Bros. Records and released a self-titled debut shortly thereafter. On the strength of singles like “Runnin’ with the Devil” and “You Really Got Me,” the album was a smash hit, climbing into the Top 20 on the charts and selling more than six million copies. Much of the early success of Van Halen was originally attributed to Roth’s stage presence and good looks, even though Eddie Van Halen’s talent on the guitar did wonders to create a unique sound that showcased his self-taught skill.
Van Halen II was equally as successful, if not more so, than its predecessor, and gave Van Halen their first Top 20 single with the song “Dance the Night Away.” A series of hit albums continued for the next few years, including Fair Warning, Diver Down, and Jump, which featured the smash hits “Jump,” “I’ll Wait,” “Panama,” and “Hot for Teacher.” But in 1985, David Lee Roth released his own solo endeavor, Crazy From the Heat, which spawned a series of hit singles, including “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo,” and it was clear that a departure from the band was imminent.
When Roth left Van Halen, Sammy Hagar climbed on board as Van Halen’s new lead singer, and the end result was the same level of success, if not greater success. The next three albums for Van Halen (5150, OU812, and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge) all went multi-platinum, and another string of hit singles found homes on the charts: “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “Love Walks In,” “Dreams,” “Finish What You Started,” “When It’s Love,” and “Feels So Good.” Van Halen released its first live album in 1993, and followed up with Balance in 1995, which debuted at number one. Tensions rose among the band members, however, leading to Sammy Hagar’s departure in the mid 1990’s. Van Halen forged forward again, this time with Gary Cherone as its lead vocalist, and Van Halen III hit the charts at number four in 1998. But Cherone also left the band shortly thereafter, and Van Halen embarked on a hiatus until the early part of the new millennium.
In a surprising turn of events, Sammy Hagar rejoined Van Halen in 2003 for the release of a compilation album and a concert tour. The reunion was short lived, but paved the way for a reunion with David Lee Roth, which did finally take place in 2006. Van Halen now exists with the lineup of Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth, and Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen’s son, on bass. Van Halen released A Different Kind of Truth in 2012, and embarked on a highly successful supporting tour.
Van Halen is listed by the RIAA as the nineteenth best-selling band in US history, with sales of over eighty-six million albums worldwide. The band has also had the most number one hits in the history of the Billboard charts. Van Halen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and continues to perform, tour, and record.
Van Halen Song List
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