Out of Bloomington, Indiana, came David Lee Roth. The son of a renowned eye surgeon (actually, almost an entire family of surgeons) Roth got his first glimpse of showbiz as a kid in his uncle’s famous Greenwich Village nightclub–Cafe Wha?–which first nurtured acts like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.
Roth ground it out in California, finally finding the Van Halen brothers with whom he formed the band Van Halen. The band’s first big break was when Kiss lead singer (and fellow tribesman) Gene Simmons first heard the band and helped them get connected. As the lead singer of Van Halen, Roth yawped and high-kicked his way into 1980s lore in apparel that no grown man should ever wear. Somehow Roth managed it, helping the band secure its place in history with a number of hits including “Jump” and “Runnin’ With the Devil.” Roth also secured his place as the imago of the 80s rock frontman–an effete party animal, a cad with a banshee yell.
Van Halen would break up, reunite for a minute in the 90s, break up again, and a decade-and-a-half later reunite, touring the world this past spring. At the center of Van Halen’s volatility was Roth, a wild man with a huge ego. Roth would go on to have a successful career as a solo artist before stints as a writer, disc jockey, paramedic, and actor (including a cameo on the HBO hit show The Sopranos). The frontmen of 1990s rock bands would reject the flair of Roth and his ilk, cementing them forever in a time and place.
Happy 58th, David Lee Roth.