Sammy Hagar has spoken out in more detail about his renewed friendship with Eddie Van Halen in the months leading up to the legendary guitarist’s death.
Hagar, who previously said he hadn’t talked to Eddie since since the conclusion of VAN HALEN‘s 2004 reunion tour, discussed his former bandmate in a new interview with Rock 105.5‘s “The Angi Taylor Show”.
Hagar said (hear audio below): “I think that the word is pretty much out that Eddie and I buried the hatchet earlier on this year. We didn’t go around talking about it. He asked me not to talk about it, and I did not talk about it. But now, looking back, if we wouldn’t have come to terms with that feud we were having after the reunion tour, I wouldn’t have been able to come to grips with it. It would have been way too much for me, ’cause I’m still grieving my ass off… But the grieving is starting to make… It feels like, hey, we had a great thing. This music will live on forever — beyond me. I’ll sing it for the rest of my life. When I’m gone, hopefully some young bands come up and play that music. And you can always play it in your homes.”
Asked to recall one of his favorite Eddie moments, Sammy said: “When I called him, after years of not speaking, back in February, I think, or January, whatever it was — before COVID — he said, ‘What took you so long?’ [Laughs] It put the biggest smile on my face. I said, ‘Oh my God. Don’t ask me.’ That was just very touching to me: ‘Hey, I’ve been waitin’.'”
In a separate interview with Marci Wiser of 95.5 KLOS, Hagar said that Eddie‘s death was “hard to accept” when he first got the news. Two days after the guitarist’s passing, Sammy and fellow ex-VAN HALEN member Michael Anthony (bass) paid tribute to Eddie Van Halen at Hagar‘s annual birthday bash, which was moved to Catalina Island in California due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to launching into a rendition of the VAN HALEN classic “Right Now” with the rest of THE CIRCLE band, Hagar led the audience in a moment of silence as they stood quietly for 20 seconds in memory of Van Halen, who died on October 6 at the age of 65 following a long cancer battle.
“The moment I heard ‘Right Now’, the beginning, the piano part to that, and I was about to sing it, I realized how great it was, the music that Eddie Van Halen [co-wrote],” Sammy said (hear audio below). “He was just a genius musician, songwriter, bandmate. And when you hear the music, you realize it’s immortal — it lives forever.
“We were left with a beautiful gift. And having 11 years of my life standing on stage next to Eddie Van Halen, writing all those songs together, at the peak of my rock and roll career in that band, I’m grateful for it. I’m just so glad that it happened.”
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.
Sammy, Eddie, drummer Alex Van Halen and Anthony last teamed up in 2004 for a U.S. summer tour. In exchange for taking part in the tour, Anthony reportedly had to agree to take a pay cut and sign away his rights to the band name and logo.
In his autobiography, “Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock”, Hagar slammed Eddie, saying the guitarist was unkempt, hunched over, frighteningly skinny, drinking wine straight out of a bottle, missing part of his tongue (after a cancer scare) and several teeth. He told an interviewer in 2012: “What happened on that reunion tour in ’04 was some of the most miserable, back-stabbing dark crap I’ve ever been involved with my whole life.”
In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Eddie questioned an “embellished” portion of “Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock” that painted the guitarist as a “very angry drunk” during the group’s 2004 reunion tour.
Early last year, rumors were rampant that the classic-era lineup of VAN HALEN would reunite for the first time since 1984. It’s unclear why the tour didn’t happen, though there has been online chatter that a health setback involving Eddie might have been responsible.
Eddie died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California. His wife, Janie, was by his side, along with his son, Wolfgang, and Alex.
Eddie died from complications due to cancer, his son confirmed.
The guitarist was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2000 and had tongue surgery. He later battled throat cancer and reportedly had been receiving radiation treatment in Germany.