Title: RED; My Uncensored Life in Rock
Review: I was in High School when 1984 came out and when the Roth/Hagar switch took place. While I loved early Van Halen, and had all their albums (well, cassettes in my day), I really liked the Hagar version more. The album 5150 was phenomenal, way beyond anything that had come before. So I really wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it; to get the inside scoop on what took place within the band over the years, and to see if Sammy really was that nice of a guy.
Typically in a memoir I judge whether someone is a nice person based on how much they portray themselves as being totally awesome. If they do not admit some faults, come across as very self depreciating, avoid attacking others out of hand, and just give a balanced retelling of their experiences. If they do any of the above I generally write them off as an asshat.
Reading about Sammy’s story you come away realizing he is far from perfect, but sincerely a good guy who really cares about the people in his life, and about his passions like his music and tequila. You rejoice in his successes, such as his Cabo Wabo Cantina, and the incredible achievement of his Cabo Wabo tequila (which, spoiler, he sold 80 million dollars).
With financial security came some freedoms, such as playing music he wanted to play with people he wants to play with, and several insights. The one I thought about the most was his observation that as a busty person he always had a hard time just relaxing. He always found himself crawling the walls looking for anything to do. Without any pressures he learned how to find new levels of relaxation; deeper levels.
That makes me think of any endeavor in life. Whatever you achieve or learn initially is nowhere near what we can accomplish if we just stick with it. Push for new levels. That can be scholarly work, self reflection, or regular job, or just plain relaxation. You must work at anything if you really want to master it. Much like Malcolm Gladwell points out, 10,000 hours is the currency of the greatest. Typically I think we spend a few hundred for some knock-off and convince ourselves it is just as good.
Of course the elephant in the room is Van Halen. Whether you chose to believe Sammy’s quite reasonable account of what took place, I think we can all agree about two things. First Eddie is a great guitarist. Second Eddie has an ongoing terrible substance abuse problem that has hampered not only his career, but his whole life. To paraphrase Kathi Griffin (speaking about Whitney Houston), I look at Eddie and still hope the genius within can come back to us.
In the end you learn that Sammy is a great guy who is doing all he can to live a happy life, be a good friend, and just make some great music.
Publisher: IT Books
Quick Review: 4 stars
Why I Read It: Big Hagar era Van Halen fan.
Where I Obtained the Book: At my local library.
Synopsis: Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Sammy Hagar has had a long run and it isn't over yet. After a brief attempt at professional boxing, the singer and guitarist known as "The Red Rocker" began his music career in Southern California during the late sixties, then rocketed into fame as a solo star and a key member of several top bands, most notably Van Halen. Stories of his stormy years with that group and its notorious leader Eddie Van Halen form a central part of this anecdote-filled memoir. Unforgettable stories about fame, feuds, and offstage frenzy. (Hand-selling tip: Van Halen is one of the most successful bands in rock history. To date, they have sold more than 80 million records.)
Author Biography: There is a new board game that's just out with lots of music trivia. There is a question about tequila and cantinas and the answer is obviously Sammy Hagar. Duh. The better question is, "Name a singer who has gold records, is a member of three different bands and is a solo artist?" Same answer, Sammy Hagar. Now name another voice who can equal that. Sorry, there is only one. Sam's in a league of his own. Surprised? OK, but now let's throw in all the multi Platinum soundtracks and a whole list of other records that haven't gone Gold, but are still loaded with great songs. Sure we all know about the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame induction, but now they need to find a special place in there for this guy. Hello Cleveland?
From the Montrose albums that are an essential part of the foundation of what became heavy metal, through a solo career that produced I Can't Drive 55, an icon of car culture in American music, Sammy Hagar is a force to be reckoned with. Undeniably his Van Halen years are the summit of hard rock's transition into the mainstream. Now with a new group, Chickenfoot, Sam has reestablished his roots in a blues based rock band one more time.
Perhaps tequila and cantina are not the best answer to a trivia question, but they are really great answers to how to turn your passion for great food and drink into businesses that you totally love. Sammy has done that. The continued success of the Cabo Wabo Cantinas in Cabo San Lucas and Lake Tahoe led to yet another Cabo Wabo Cantina in Las Vegas, Nevada. But that will be Sam's second Vegas watering hole, the first is Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill in the McCarren International Airport. This is the start of a chain of restaurants, in partnership with Host International, that will bring a welcome dining experience to airports across America. Sam's profits fund local children's charities in these cities and continues a relationship with his fans of giving to those in need.
So with a new band, new restaurants opening, and a premium tequila that continues to grow in popularity, Sammy has a lot on his plate. No problem. He has the energy to power a small town and continues to expand the envelope of possibility. What's next? A new brand? A new song? Whatever it is will probably be a part of our lives as he has been a part of us for decades now.