Hagar's penchant for excess is legendary. He throws himself epic birthday bashes that last for days, sometimes weeks. He owns homes in California, Hawaii, and Mexico, replete with a garage full of bad-ass cars, including the 1982 Ferrari 512 BB from the music video “I Can’t Drive 55.”
He's a poster child for the adage “Go big or go home” and works as hard as he plays. Hagar is an author, a radio DJ, and a TV host. His fondness for cooking has spawned ten restaurants, and his lust for partying begat two über-successful liquor brands.
And, oh yeah, he sings and plays guitar too.
Hagar will lay it all out at the Hard Rock Event Center this Saturday, September 15, when he performs with his current band, the Circle. It includes former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Vic Johnson of the Busboys, and Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.
Hagar is best known for his time with Van Halen, or "Van Hagar," as the band was dubbed after Hagar supplanted notorious frontman David Lee Roth in 1985. The move prompted an impassioned debate among both fans and critics. But Hagar's work spoke for itself, and Van Halen’s subsequent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 solidified Hagar’s standing as one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the history of rock.
His powerhouse vocals are soulful, rich, and unmistakable. From his early work in Montrose (“Rock Candy,” “Bad Motor Scooter”) to his solo career (“I Can’t Drive 55,” “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy,” “Heavy Metal,” “There’s Only One Way to Rock”) and his time with Van Halen, his impressive vocal range has endured unadulterated.
Hagar knows everyone, and everyone knows Hagar. In the world of rock, there are only two degrees of Sammy Hagar. But it was his collaborations with Eddie Van Halen that Hagar credits for some of his most timeless masterpieces. “When we hit magic, we hit magic,” Hagar says of hits such as “Finish What Ya Started,” “Love Walks In,” “When It’s Love,” “Top of the World,” and “Right Now.”
Although Hagar has not spoken to either Eddie Van Halen or David Lee Roth for years, he says he would welcome a Van Halen reunion. But he’s not holding his breath. “I threw the line in the water... and there were no nibbles on the bait.”
So Hagar rocks on without them, and, yes, he knows a thing or two about money. And he likes it. What he doesn’t like is greed. And that space, that perilous space between money and greed, is the foundation for his forthcoming concept album with the Circle, Space Between.
“It’s about the misconception that money is the root of all evil, because the truth of the matter is, that it isn’t money at all,” Hagar says. “You can feed the poor, you can heal the sick, you can make people happy, you can stop a war with money, but it’s greed that is the problem. That’s what the whole record is about. It’s what I discovered by being both rich and poor.”
And Hagar has been poor. In fact, he has been homeless. He was only 4. His father was absent, a jailed alcoholic.
“Looking back, it was horrible, but at the time, we were having a great time,” Hagar says of living in a car with his mother and three older siblings. “My mom was such a great mom, and she was such a great cook. I never felt like we were starving to death. We used food banks, and now that’s why I support them so much.”
Going without left a deep and lasting impact on Hagar, who now donates money to local food banks in each city he plays. “I see poor people in the street, little kids, and I have to stop the car and go help them,” he says. “I cannot just drive past somebody that needs help. It’s not in my nature.”
Hagar admits to being rather lachrymose and jokingly claims to be just short of bipolar. He says he's the good-time, happy-go-lucky guy everyone knows, but he is also someone else.
“I am the biggest softy wimp,” he says. “I’m a frickin’ bawler. It’s embarrassing. I can’t go to movies because the lights come up at the end and I’m sitting here, all teared up, crying like a baby.”
Hagar is unapologetic about his sensitivity. He embraces it. “I think it’s what makes me an artist and what makes me able to still write songs at this stage of my life,” he says. “I’m so easily inspired.”
While many rock performers from his era have faded like the colors of an old David Lee Roth poster, at almost 71, Hagar rages on. He has remained not only relevant but also cutting-edge. He has also stayed gracious and affable, even when propositioned by well-meaning but overzealous fans.
“Guys ask me to have sex with their wives,” he says. “I’m like, 'No, no, no,' and they’re like, ‘How about just, like, a blowjob? She’s really good.’ And I’m going, ‘Dude, are you crazy?’ I can’t even imagine.”
And though the very married Hagar’s party-boy mystique may be proof that rock 'n' roll dreams come true, he concedes that living the rock-star lifestyle is simply not important anymore.
“The most important thing is giving love,” he says. “Without it, we’re fucked.” Then, with a teaser from one of his new songs, he adds, “Without it, you’re dealing with the Devil. He’s at sea level now.”
And as crazy as it might seem, Hagar treasures the sanctity found in life’s simplest pleasures. His favorite place to chill is the beach, which he considers a great equalizer in this inequitable world of haves and have-nots.
“Oprah can be sitting next to you on one side, and Bill Gates can be sitting on the other side, and they’re looking at the same view, getting hit with the same sun, their feet are in the same sand, and they’re going in the same water. To me, it’s the ultimate luxury pleasure — and it’s free.”
Today Hagar’s attention is focused on the success of Space Between, which he hopes to release in January 2019. He says this album will likely be his last, and he would love to snag a Grammy for it.
“That’s my bucket list: to have one more credible musical experience in my life,” he says. “I think I did it, and I hope it’s as good as I think it is. I’ve been double-parked in the rock 'n' roll business for 40 years, and I want a stamp on my validation so I don’t have to pay to get out.”
Sammy Hagar & the Circle. 8 p.m. Saturday, September 15, at Hard Rock Event Center, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; seminolehardrockhollywood.com. Tickets cost $50 to $90 via ticketmaster.com.