David Lee Roth was born in Indiana today in 1954. He was the successor to Robert Plant as the prototypical front man of his decade. What Plant was to the 1970s Diamond Dave was to the 1980s.
Roth's father was a wealthy surgeon and his uncle, Manny, owned the famous Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. Uncle Manny's club played a large role in the careers of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Exposure to Uncle Manny also helped Dave learn the music business from the inside out.
Dave eventually relocated to Pasadena, California and got together with a band called Red Ball Jets. Dave owned a PA system which was often rented by another local band called Mammoth. The guys in Mammoth - Michael Anthony and Alex and Eddie Van Halen - eventually realized it would be cheaper to hire Dave as their singer and Van Halen was born in 1974.
Van Halen were relentless self-promoters and would play anywhere they could. They attracted the attention of Gene Simmons from KISS and Simmons helped them produce a demo tape that went nowhere. In 1977 they signed with Warner Brothers and released the album 'Van Halen' in 1978.
The album was an instant success, reaching the Top 20 and eventually going platinum even though many people considered it a heavy metal album. The band toured for almost a year behind the strength of the album and opened for Black Sabbath. Dave would release six albums with Van Halen before leaving the band in 1984. The final of those six albums, '1984', reached #2 behind a little album from Michael Jackson called 'Thriller'.
Leaving Van Halen hardly slowed Dave down. He recruited Steve Vai on guitar and released two more albums in the 1980s, 'Eat 'em and Smile' and 'Skyscraper', both of which went double platinum. In 1991 Dave released 'A Little Ain't Enough' just as grunge was becoming the dominant rock style. The album went gold but signaled the start of a tough period for Dave. His next album 'Your Filthy Little Mouth' came out in 1994 and was poorly received.
Dave was down but not out. He regrouped, found yet another tremendous guitarist in the form of John 5, and released the excellent 'DLR Band' album in 1998. Dave would release 'Diamond Dave', a covers album, in 2003 and eventually reunite with Van Halen in 2006. Dave and VH have had an on and off relationship since then.
Here is Dave and Van Halen live in 1981 doing 'Unchained' off the 'Fair Warning' album: