Gary Cherone’s brief tenure as Van Halen‘s frontman is often dismissed as a complete fiasco, a gross violation of the natural order of rock that required back-to-back reunions with Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth to set the world back on its axis. The truth is much more complicated. The Extreme singer had an undeniably powerful voice and Van Halen III has some very fine moments, especially the leadoff single “Without You.” If Sammy Hagar had been singing those songs it would have gotten a much better reception.
If you need any more proof the Cherone period wasn’t a complete bust, check out this live video of “Jump” taped May 29th, 1998 at the Rock Im Park Festival in Nürnberg, Germany. Would the people in that crowd probably preferred to hear David Lee Roth or even Sammy Hagar sing that song? There’s almost no question. But they’re still jumping up and down like maniacs and yelling along to ever word of the 1984 pop classic. To them, 3/4th of original Van Halen was much better than no Van Halen at all.
When the group finally did reunite with the original “Jump” singer nine years later they were still at 75 percent capacity, since bassist Michael Anthony wasn’t invited back. In his place was Eddie’s teenage song Wolfgang Van Halen. It’s a situation that has frustrated not only the group’s fans, but David Lee Roth himself. “In our tiny little corner of the universe, [Michael Antony’s] voice is as identifiable as the high voice in Earth, Wind & Fire; as identifiable as the high voice in the Beach Boys,” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “Van Halen is an indelicate house blend of both – that’s intentionally. So I would always look forward to that reunion.”
The group hasn’t toured since 2015 and there’s no word about any future activity. Sammy Hagar recently told us he’d be down for a tour in which he and Roth take turns fronting the group, but he’d only do it if Michael Anthony were invited back. Such a tour would require Eddie to fire his own son and make peace with Anthony and Hagar about thirteen years of bitter estrangement. It would also require Roth to share his stage. It’s very, very hard to imagine.
There’s no room in this fantasy tour for Gary Cherone, but he’s content with occupying his tiny space of Van Halen history. “I’m from a previous generation,” he told Rolling Stone in 2012. “I grew up on Aerosmith, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen. So at the end of the day, I’m gonna say, ‘Hey, I was one of the three singers in the mighty Van Halen.’ You can’t take that away from me.”