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Sammy Hagar goes solo

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Sammy Hagar used to be the quintessential rock dude, a fun-loving loudmouth who, by his own admission, was primarily interested in ”cruisin’ and boozin’ and tryin’ to pick up chicks.” But the onetime party animal was forced to burrow deep into his psyche and get serious when he left Van Halen last June after 11 years as the band’s lead singer. (Depending on whom you ask, Hagar either jumped or was pushed out during an embarrassingly public shake-up that saw him replaced briefly by his own predecessor, David Lee Roth, before ex-Extreme frontman Gary Cherone got the nod as the band’s new singer.)

Though shaken by those events, Hagar didn’t let his engine idle for long. ”I took two weeks to think about what had happened,” he says. ”Then I went into the studio and started writing songs.”

The resulting album, the just-released Marching to Mars, features an odd assortment of guest musicians (Huey Lewis, Bootsy Collins, the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart), most of whom are old pals of Hagar’s. The singer says the quiet, acoustic lilt of much of the music is reflective of his blossoming introspective side.

”It’s really a concept album about leaving the past behind,” he says, pointing out that many of the songs (”Little White Lie,” ”Leaving the Warmth of the Womb”) are specifically about his last days with Van Halen.

Although he’s closing in on 50, the indefatigable Hagar is optimistic that his revived solo career will take off. ”Leaving Van Halen may be the best thing that ever happened,” he asserts. ”I’m on a rocket ship now, doin’ exactly what I want.” Even so, he hopes to one day patch things up with his old band. ”If I never walk on stage with Eddie Van Halen again, I’ll be really disappointed,” he confesses. ”But it’s gonna take a lot of healing. I’m still bleedin’, man.”

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