You Say It's Your Birthday: David Lee Roth

Today is the 42nd birthday of original Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth.

Roth's flamboyant stage persona combined with the guitar mastery of Eddie

Van Halen were the key ingredients in making Van Halen one of the most

successful heavy metal acts to come out of the L.A. scene. Born in

Bloomington, Ind., the son of a jazz loving ophthalmologist, Roth was

turned on to the vocal stylings of Al Jolson and Ray Charles by his father

at the age of 8. Roth's family moved to California when he was in his

teens and he began singing solo as well as with a group called the Red Ball

Jets. The Red Ball Jets often shared their sound equipment with a group

called Mammoth, a band which featured Alex Van Halen on drums and Eddie

Van

Halen on guitar. Roth joined Mammoth in 1973, bassist Michael Anthony

joined in 1974 and later that year Van Halen was born. The band toured

constantly on the Pasadena/Santa Barbara circuit, mostly playing covers but

also sneaking in a few originals. Kiss bassist Gene Simmons produced their

first demo and the band was signed to Warner Bros. in 1977. Their self

titled debut came out the next year and hit #19 on the charts based on the

strength of "Runnin' With The Devil," the first in a long string of songs

about the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, and their cover of the Kinks' "You

Really Got Me."

Van Halen's first top 20 hit was "Dance The Night Away," from 1979's

Van Halen II. The success of the single allowed the band to launch

a headlining world tour, the first tour in which Diamond Dave and his

bandmates contractually demanded a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones

removed as a way to see if promoters read the contract all the way through.

It was also during this tour that the band earned its reputation as hard

partiers, with many an urban legend springing from its backstage parties.

The ever quotable Roth always did his best to encourage the rumors,

constantly telling reporters about the substances he ingested and the

number of women he had been with. Van Halen released one album per year in

the early '80s, hitting the charts with such songs as their covers of Roy

Orbison's "Oh Pretty Woman" (one of the first handful of videos to be

banned by MTV) and Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing In The Street." Van

Halen broke into the mainstream upon the release of 1984, an album

which contained the #1 hit "Jump," as well as the singles "I'll Wait,"

"Panama" and "Hot For Teacher." Roth released a solo EP, 1985's Crazy

From The Heat, which contained his covers of the jazz standard "Just A

Gigalo/I Ain't Got Nobody" and the Beach Boys' "California Girls," the

videos for which went a long way to cement Roth's reputation as a wacky

ladies man. The long simmering personality clash between the mild-mannered

Eddie Van Halen and the way-out-front Roth finally came to a head at the end

of the year when Roth left the band because he wanted to tour stadiums and

the rest of Van Halen wanted to tour arenas. Roth had a mildly successful

solo career, with 1986's Eat 'Em And Smile and 1987's

Skyscraper going platinum and featuring the guitar work of Steve

Vai. Roth's work in the '90s, however, has consistently been a

disappointment, with 1991's A Little Ain't Enough and 1994's Your

Filthy Little Mouth failing to yield a single. Roth briefly rejoined

Van Halen last year to record a track for a greatest hits collection and

this year brought the release of his autobiography and a greatest hits

collection of his own.

Other birthdays: Alan Cartwright (Procol Harum), 52; Jerry LaCroix (White

Trash/Blood Sweat & Tears), 52; Keith Reid (Procol Harum), 51; Midge Ure

(Ultravox), 44; Al Connelly (Glass Tiger), 37; Martin Kemp (Spandau

Ballet), 36; and Michael Bivens (Bell Biv DeVoe), 29.