David Lee Roth Reveals The Teacher's Warning That Sparked His Work Ethic

By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta

July 9, 2019

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David Lee Roth is a Renaissance man who's story is fascinating far beyond his tenures as the singer for Van Halen.

A world traveler and entrepreneur, Roth is always in search of new experiences. But as he tells Marc Maron on a recent episode of the WTF Podcast, his zest for life stemmed initially from fear of wasting it.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer tells Maron that as a child he was constantly in search of positive reinforcement that he almost never got at home or at school. He worked hard in school because he was afraid of what would happen if he didn't.

"Singing for Van Halen comes from a resource that is way more almost vicious," Roth began, explaining that his first voice teacher was a Holocaust survivor.

"My first singing teacher had two numbers on his forearm," he continued. "One was his camp number and the other was his orchestra number. And as a punk kid, I once asked him in front of the class, 'So what happens if you didn't sing good?' And he was very explicit. He said, 'If you didn't sing good, you went up the chimneys.' I think of that every single time I sing, every single time I get ready to sing, every time my inner child goes, 'F--k it, you don't need to [warm up]. Don't worry about it; you'll sing fine.' I remember that."

Though he's always been an agitator and a bit of a clown, Roth added that he's a sensitive person at heart and his teacher's stories about suffering at the hands of the Nazis stuck with him since his childhood.

"I remember him saying to me more than once, 'Mr. Roth, if you can't find it within yourself to sing on behalf of those who went up the chimneys with a song in their hearts, sing so you don't go up the chimneys,'" Roth continued. "And that's where that fire for 'Run With the Devil'...How long are we going to dance? We're gonna 'Dance the Night Away'! Hey, how about these words, 'Let's jump!' They're all verbs! Think about that."

Since the rumored summer Van Halen tour never materialized, Roth is keeping busy with his new podcast and his burgeoning skin care company, Ink the Original.

Roth said this spring that he was considering offers for another residency in Las Vegas, but he's yet to announce any live dates.

Photo: Getty Images

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