Book Him Danno's Reviews > Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock

Red by Sammy Hagar
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Nov 19, 11

bookshelves: 2011

I was in High School when 1984 came out and when the Roth/Hagar switch took place. While I loved early Van Halen, and had all their albums (well, cassettes in my day), I really liked the Hagar version more. The album 5150 was phenomenal, way beyond anything that had come before. So I really wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it; to get the inside scoop on what took place within the band over the years, and to see if Sammy really was that nice of a guy.

Typically in a memoir I judge whether someone is a nice person based on how much they portray themselves as being totally awesome. If they do not admit some faults, come across as very self depreciating, avoid attacking others out of hand, and just give a balanced retelling of their experiences. If they do any of the above I generally write them off as an asshat.

Reading about Sammy’s story you come away realizing he is far from perfect, but sincerely a good guy who really cares about the people in his life, and about his passions like his music and tequila. You rejoice in his successes, such as his Cabo Wabo Cantina, and the incredible achievement of his Cabo Wabo tequila (which, spoiler, he sold 80 million dollars).

With financial security came some freedoms, such as playing music he wanted to play with people he wants to play with, and several insights. The one I thought about the most was his observation that as a busty person he always had a hard time just relaxing. He always found himself crawling the walls looking for anything to do. Without any pressures he learned how to find new levels of relaxation; deeper levels.

That makes me think of any endeavor in life. Whatever you achieve or learn initially is nowhere near what we can accomplish if we just stick with it. Push for new levels. That can be scholarly work, self reflection, or regular job, or just plain relaxation. You must work at anything if you really want to master it. Much like Malcolm Gladwell points out, 10,000 hours is the currency of the greatest. Typically I think we spend a few hundred for some knock-off and convince ourselves it is just as good.

Of course the elephant in the room is Van Halen. Whether you chose to believe Sammy’s quite reasonable account of what took place, I think we can all agree about two things. First Eddie is a great guitarist. Second Eddie has an ongoing terrible substance abuse problem that has hampered not only his career, but his whole life. To paraphrase Kathi Griffin (speaking about Whitney Houston), I look at Eddie and still hope the genius within can come back to us.

In the end you learn that Sammy is a great guy who is doing all he can to live a happy life, be a good friend, and just make some great music.
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