Sammy Hagar: “I always got blamed for the keyboard songs in Van Halen. It was not me - Eddie wanted to do that!”

(Image credit: Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

The debate over the musical merits of Van Halen vs. Van Hagar will likely rage on for time immemorial.

But here's some new information that might lead electric guitar players to reconsider their feelings on the matter: Sammy Hagar is not the one responsible for all the keyboards.

At least, that’s according to Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony.

The two former VH men appeared on SiriusXM’s Trunk Nation on April 7, where they laid the credit solely at Eddie Van Halen’s red-and-white-striped feet.

"Finally, I get my soapbox here," Hagar began. "Everyone blamed me for the freakin’ keyboard playing on the Van Hagar era. Starting with 5150 and OU812 we went very keyboard-oriented. I didn't do any of that. That's what Eddie did. Eddie wanted to do that.

“He liked playing keyboards, and he was freakin' good at it and he wrote these beautiful songs like When It's Love and stuff like that, and Why Can't This Be Love, and it's such a cool lick.”

Added Anthony, "Once Ed really got into the keyboard thing he barely pick up his guitar for a long time, I remember. He was just playing keyboards all the time."

"So it wasn't like I’m sitting here saying, 'Hey, man. Let's do some more keyboard songs,'" Hagar continued. "I'm sitting here saying, 'What have you got, Ed?' And he goes, 'I've got this.' And I'm going, 'Wow, that's great. I could sing to it.' 'Cause I could sing to any damn thing.

“So I'd start singing and Ed would go, 'Oh, man, this is so cool.' And, of course, Valerie [Bertinelli, Eddie's then wife] would come in and validate it. When she heard Love Walks In, she’s going 'Oh my God.' And Eddie's going, 'Oh, man, my wife's happy, so I'm happy.' And I'm going, 'Well, I'm happy.' And you know, we had success and all that.

“But I kind of always got blamed for the keyboard songs. It was not me whatsoever. I'm a damn guitar player. Every time I would pick up, like for Finish What Ya Started or something like that, when I would instigate a song, it was a guitar song, 'cause I don't play keyboards. 

"So, you know, it wasn't me. I just went along with what we had. And if it wouldn't have been good, I wouldn't have went along with it. I would have said, 'This sucks.' But it didn't."

Despite shifting the blame for the keyboards, Hagar, um, finished what he started by praising his former bandmate's facility on the instrument.

"The part that's most impressive to me is what a good keyboard player Eddie Van Halen is. He's got a left hand on the freakin' keyboard that's as good as freakin' Bootsy Collins on the bass, man. 

"I mean, he's funky with that left hand. You know, listen to When It's Love, man!" 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.