Sammy Hagar says he’s grateful he had the opportunity to speak with Eddie Van Halen one last time before the guitarist passed away earlier this year.
Speaking to Variety from Big Sky, Montana, where he was launching Santo Reposado, the latest expression in his Santo Tequila line, Hagar says the distance between him and Van Halen was something he regretted, and he’s glad the two of them were able to finally find some closure.
“Poor Eddie, broke my heart, but thank God we connected before [he died],” Hagar says. “I heard he was in bad shape and I wanted to reach out; I finally said, ‘I’m just calling him.'”
But according to Hagar, trying to get ahold of his former bandmate proved to be difficult, as he no longer had Van Halen’s number. “I was calling his brother, I was calling his manager, I was calling his friends, and I’d say, ‘Hey, tell Ed, give him my phone number. Tell him if he ever wants to talk to me, I really, really want to talk it out, help him and see what I can do,'” Hagar says. “I [told them], ‘I want to be his friend, I want to bury the hatchet,’ but they never got it done.”
In the end, Hagar says, it was George Lopez of all people who finally brought the two together. “George is a dear friend and he was Eddie’s friend and he said, ‘Sammy, Eddie’s in bad shape, he loves you brother, you need to reach out.’ I said, ‘Give me his fucking number and I’ll make sure I call him.'”
When Hagar finally reached Van Halen, the singer says there was nothing but love between the longtime musical partners. “I said, ‘Why don’t you respond? I’ve been reaching out,'” Hagar recalls, “and Ed said, ‘Why didn’t you call me? Don’t fucking call my brother, fucking call me!’ And I said, ‘I love you man,’ and it was like, boom, we were good. It was,” Hagar says, “a beautiful thing.”
Van Halen passed away in October after a long battle with cancer. Hagar confirms a Van Halen group reunion tour had been in the works, prior to the guitarist’s illness. “Eddie and Al [Alex Van Halen} and Irving Azoff, their manager [and] my dear friend, we were looking at doing the reunion tour with everybody, which is the way it had to be,” Hagar says, corroborating reports that the tour would have included both himself and David Lee Roth, whom Hager famously replaced in 1985. “I’ve been pushing for that for 10 years,” Hager insists, adding that he was ready to “put [any differences] aside. Let’s go give the fans the biggest band in the world, you know what I mean?” he says. “You don’t get bigger than Van Halen, and the fans deserve to see it all, hear every song.”
While Hagar has found success as a solo singer and with his band, The Circle, he said it was always the Van Halen catalog that fans wanted to hear. “You know, you go see just me, I’ll sing some of the Dave songs, but I wouldn’t ever sing enough,” he says, “and then he can’t sing my songs, so they never heard, you know, the Van Halen hits, the No. 1 albums we had. And so it’s not fair. You know, there’s always a bitch,” Hagar jests. “Every time we do a reunion, whichever one it was, it was a bitch. But yeah, that would have been wonderful.”
Though the reunion tour won’t be happening, Hagar had been touring with The Circle before the coronavirus pandemic brought live shows to a halt. The 73-year-old admits it was nice to slow down for a while, though he’s eager to return to the road when it’s safe to do so. “I’m starting to really miss it now,” he says.
Still, the time off has given Hagar the chance to focus on some of his other projects, including Santo, the premium tequila line he co-founded with celebrity chef Guy Fieri. The longtime friends held a socially distant launch event at the upscale Lone Mountain Ranch in Montana in mid-December to unveil their new Santo Reposado. The cask-aged 100% agave tequila joins Santo’s Blanco tequila and the brand’s popular tequila-mezcal blend, the aptly-named Santo Mezquila, as part of the brand’s offerings.
Hagar, whose Cabo Wabo tequila brand in the ’80s inspired a Van Halen song of the same name, says he quickly converted his former bandmates into “tequila guys” too. “Every band member loved tequila,” Hagar says, adding, “Everyone on the planet loves tequila — it’s just fun.”