What Really Caused Sammy Hagar And Eddie Van Halen's Feud In The 90s

Upon hearing the news of the tragic death of Eddie Van Halen, his former band mate Sammy Hagar tweeted that he was "heartbroken and speechless" and sent his love to the grieving family. Although the two rock legends smile brightly in the accompanying photo, they weren't always so buddy-buddy. Hagar took over for the high-kicking, buttless-chaps-rocking David Lee Roth when he famously left the band at the height of their fame in the mid-1980s.

Eddie and Hagar seemed to get along for a while, but as with the band's first singer, things eventually began to go south with the new guy. In hindsight, it appeared as though Eddie could only ever get along with people with whom he shared a last name. His brother Alex has consistently played drums throughout the band's history, and his son Wolfgang took over on bass in 2006. According to Ultimate Classic Rock — and Eddie (but not necessarily Sammy) — Hagar's tenure with Van Halen ended with a final phone call in June 1996.

Eddie Van Halen said he quit, Sammy Hagar said he was fired

Sammy Hagar told Rolling Stone in 2015 that the troubles really began during the recording sessions for Van Halen's 1995 album "Balance." "That was the record where if I said black, Eddie said white, and I'd say, 'Okay, white,' he'd say, 'No, I want black,'" he said. "He just wanted the opposite of what I wanted." That tension characterized the tour that followed the album's release, and after the final date was in the books, Hagar thought he'd be able to have a couple months to spend time with his new baby. But Eddie and Alex wanted to get right back to work on another album. They said they wanted more money, to which Hagar replied, "Whoa, are you crazy? We're not hurting for money."

Hagar's intention to do a solo album was apparently the last straw. That fateful phone call came, ironically, on Father's Day, 1996, and the two didn't speak until well into the new millennium. But in 2016, Hagar decided that they both weren't getting any younger, so he decided to send his old band mate a tweet to wish him happy birthday. Ultimate Classic Rock reported afterward that Hagar said he didn't "want to be buried with any regrets or bad vibes like that," and after he heard the news about Eddie's passing, he's probably real glad they let bygones be bygones and ended things on friendly terms.

Hagar said jealousy was one cause of the clash

During a 2022 interview with Guitar World, Sammy Hagar dived deeper into his feud with Eddie Van Halen — and suggested that his close relationship with Michael Anthony might have had something to do with it. "Mikey is like my brother from another mother," Hagar said. "So much so that back in the early Van Halen days, Eddie would get all jealous. Because Mike and I would get into these soulful conversations for hours, and Eddie would be on the outside looking in." He added: "Even in the early days, Eddie would say, 'Hey, I wanna hang out like you and Mike do.' And I was like, 'Cool, man. Let's do it. So, what's the problem?'"

Though this apparent jealousy didn't create significant issues at first, Hagar said he and Anthony's bond continued to get under Eddie's skin as the years went by, and by the end, Anthony and Hagar had their own plane to keep the latter away from Eddie. "I guess Mike and I are cut from the same cloth," Hagar said. "Eddie hated it, would get mad on stage, and called it stupid, but we had our inside lingo and were always very close."

According to Hagar, his bond with Anthony shined through in their music, with the pair's lead and background vocals, respectively, meshing together to create the "unique sound" heard in Van Halen — a sound Hagar said he has been unable to replicate with any other creative partner.

Substance abuse and personal issues also played a role, Hagar said

In 2023, Sammy Hagar again discussed his feud with Eddie Van Halen and pointed to two other catalysts: substance abuse and personal issues. Speaking with USA Today, Hagar expressed his love for the legendary musician and his regret over the pair's feud progressing over the years. "What happened with us at the end was such a shame," he said. "It's what happens when alcohol and drugs are involved, and I'm going through a divorce. It's such a shame. If Van Halen were still together today, we'd be headlining every one of these festivals all over the world."

The group's substance abuse is no secret, with their personal manager (and fixer), Noel Monk, even penning a book — "Runnin' with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen" — that spotlighted such issues, among many others. "Too much talent and too much ego, too many disparate personalities, too much drugs and alcohol," Monk wrote (per the Daily Mail). "They had to be great right from the beginning, because there was no way it could last."

According to Monk, the group  — whose mantra was "Drink a bottle of booze, pop a couple 'ludes, smoke a joint or two (or 10) and see where the night takes you" — was a reflection of the "West Coast surfer, stoner, and partying culture."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).