Sammy Hagar says it doesn’t get much better than recording a cover version of a classic Beatles song. The iconic Red Rocker was among the dozens of music superstars invited to pay tribute to Paul McCartney in The Art of McCartney, a recently released CD collection that spans Sir Paul’s entire career, from the Beatles to Wings to his solo years.
Hagar does a blistering version of Birthday from the Beatles’ White Album. Other artists include Willie Nelson (performing Yesterday), Alice Cooper ( Eleanor Rigby), Billy Joel ( Live and Let Die), Heart ( Band on the Run) and Def Leppard ( Helen Wheels).
“It was about two years ago that they asked me to do it,” Hagar says. “I couldn’t believe it took so long to come out until I saw the list of people they had to organize. It’s quite a list.”
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1 You also released an acoustic album in October called Lite Roast, you’re on Heart’s new Home for the Holidays CD, you were a guest star on The Simpsons , and you’re performing a free New Year’s Eve concert at your Cabo Wabo Cantina in Los Cabos, Mexico. Why so busy?
It’s strictly the love of creativity. If I don’t write a song every now and then, I get really frustrated. All of my restaurants and my rum business and those things that I do outside of music satisfy that a little bit. But when you’re a creative person, you cannot turn it off.
2 Did you pick your Art of McCartney song?
I didn’t pick that song. They said, ‘We’d like you to sing the Birthday song since you’re the birthday king, throwing all your birthday-bash parties in Cabo every year.’ It’s got a cool guitar riff and it’s kind of a screamer. It’s not like I’d have to try to sing Hey Jude and compete in that arena with Paul.
3 Did it bring you back to the early days of your career, when you were singing in a cover band?
That’s how I started. I used to have a soul band called the Justice Brothers. When I met James Brown for the first time, I said, ‘Hey, James, I probably made as much money off your songs as you!’ It was a stupid thing to say, but I made a living off of singing James Brown and Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding songs.
4 What did you think of the animated likeness of you on The Simpsons ?
When I saw it, I went, ‘Whoa, hey, hold on here!’ I couldn’t relate to the body and face look. But they got my tennis shoes right and they got my flowered shirt for my semi-Hawaiian-lifestyle look.
5 You’re happy that you did it, though, right?
I am in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [inducted in 2007 as a member of Van Halen], have No. 1 albums, a New York Times No. 1 book [2011’s Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock], am a Grammy Award winner, have two spirits companies and 10 restaurants, the cover of Rolling Stone, a Jeopardy! question, and now a character on The Simpsons. I have finally made it.
— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram