Sammy Hagar – Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock – Book Review

Sammy Hagar

Sammy Hagar pulls no punches, tells no lies, and leaves very little out in his new rock and roll memoir Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock. And though there are many cliche back stage groupie tales (which are way over the top, even for rock and roll standards) the story is an engrossing tale about a survivor. Sammy Hagar let nothing stand in his way to becoming a rock star, period. Once that guitar was placed in his hands at an early age, it created this dead-on determination that nothing was going to stop him, not even his most humbled upbringing–one that included an alcoholic father who’s violence and physical abuse of family members, and eventual status as the town drunk, seemed only to strengthen his resolve; a resolve and spirit that is chronicled in such detail that my respect meter for Hagar instantly surpassed where it stood for years.

Not even his wife’s multiple breakdowns, who struggled with mental health issues for most of their relationship, could deflate Hagar’s fortitude. As Hagar recalls, his focus, though at times bordering on obsessive, was always only on his craft.

“My wife’s having a nervous breakdown. She’s 21, just had a baby, and somehow I still had a one track mind. Nothing else-not my wife and not my new son-mattered to me as much as playing music.”

Hagar is most known for daring to stand in the shoes of one of rock’s most overblown front men, in one of rock’s greatest bands- Van Halen. When David Lee Roth left Van Halen, and when Eddie Van Halen reached out to him, Hagar was already a multi-million dollar selling rock attraction, almost to the point that he didn’t really want to hook up with the Van Halen brothers at all. Sammy actually was burnt, coming off years of successful touring, at first with Montrose and then with his own band, riding the wave of the lead footer’s anthem “I Can’t Drive 55.” Hagar remembers where he was at in his life when Van Halen reached out to him through his car mechanic.

“I was ready to give up everything. I certainly had more than enough to live on. Betsy (my wife) was pressuring me, and then Eddie Van Halen called.”

Reluctant at first, Hagar fell in with the Van Halen boys once the jams started to materialize into something beyond what they expected. Michael Anthony, in the forward to the book, recants some of their first jams:
“Magic like this is once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky. All of a sudden we’re taking it to a new level. Not only do we have this guy who can really sing, but now we’ve got another guitar player too. Sammy was the key. He was the guy who took us to a new, higher plateau with Van Halen.”

And that he did. For years, Hagar, Anthony, and the Van Halen brothers ruled the rock landscape, selling more records than the former interpretation ever did, until finally the clash of egos started rotting the band away at its core. Though Sammy dishes the dirt, piling it on heavy, about Eddie Van Halen’s erratic behavior (he never mentions what Eddie was on, always wondering, but never finding out), he seemed generally bummed to finally be asked to leave the band. At that point the craziness was reaching levels only rock stars can reach and the ride at the top of the rock and roll wave was over. But again, if only temporarily, Hagar was down and out only to rebound like he has all his life.

During his whole career, Hagar not only struck it rich with rock and roll, but along the way found small fortunes in investing in rental properties and a mountain bike company. Again, his absolute focus and unwillingness to give up brought him riches beyond his wildest dreams. His purchase of the Cabo Wabo club in Mexico, though at first faltered, was resurrected by Sammy and grown into a resort hot spot. The Mexico life style spurred his interest in Tequila, and before you know it, another fortune is made, one that he claims he was offered to sell for 100 million dollars.

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, when read between the rock and roll lifestyle tales, truly gives an uncensored look at a man who has lived an amazing life. Grab this book for a first hand recollection of a rock and roll hall of famer and you will come away with a story that has a depth to it rarely found in the long list of sordid rock and roll memoirs.

2 Responses to Sammy Hagar – Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock – Book Review
  1. Rick
    May 16, 2011 | 4:41 am

    Hey Chris,
    Thanks for the kind words and support. The Hagar book is a good read, I highly recommend it.
    I will check out you site when I get a chance.

  2. Christopher Jennings Penders
    May 15, 2011 | 10:22 pm

    Hello again, Rick:
    2nd column I read here. You’ve got a good handle on the music scene and your writing style drew me in immediately. I read an except of this book in Rolling Stone about a month ago and the excerpt made me want to find the book. Your review has spurred me even further.

    Good stuff, Rick.

    Check out my blog sometime:
    Think you’d like it. Lisa was telling me your girlfriend works for Hay House. My blog deals with a lot of the stuff that Hay House does. I’ll be popping in and out of your blog now that I have the address, Rick.
    Stay well!

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