Behind the Band Name: Why David Lee Roth Is Responsible for Van Halen

Despite bearing the last name Van Halen, brothers Alex and Eddie Van Halen weren’t the ones who named the iconic rock band.

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During its prime, Van Halen was comprised of frontman and lead singer David Lee Roth, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony. But before they got to hits like “Jump,” “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “Poundcake,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and many more, Van Halen went through multiple band names before landing on the one known around the world today.

Meaning Behind the Band Name

The Van Halen brothers were born in The Netherlands capital of Amsterdam, Alex in 1953 followed by Eddie in 1955. After moving to Pasadena, California, in 1962, the brothers started to learn music, with Eddie being classically trained. They formed their first band known as the Broken Combs in 1964, soon changing it to Trojan Rubber Co. A decade later, they became Genesis. But once they discovered that the name was already being used by the superstar group of Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, the band operated under the new name, Mammoth.

The group kicked into high gear when they linked up with Roth in 1972. Ironically, it was Roth who suggested they change the band name to Eddie and Alex’s last name, believing it embodied the longevity the band was aiming for. In an interview with Howard Stern, Roth revealed that another name that was up for consideration was Rat Salad, the title of an instrumental deep cut off Black Sabbath’s famous 1970 album, Paranoid. But he intentionally steered his bandmates in a more personal direction.

“Let’s make something that’s going to have some longevity to it, that has a little bit of shadow, and a little mystery,” Roth told the band at the time when suggesting the name Van Halen. “You’re not sure what a Van Halen is. It’s like Santana. That could be the name of a place, it could be the name of a person.”

When Stern asked if the name gave the Van Halen brothers “too much power” and why Roth didn’t suggest his own last name, the singer joked, “Single syllables never swing.”

The name stuck, with Van Halen becoming one of the forebearers of rock music. They’re one of the best-selling bands of all time and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. After Eddie passed away in October 2020, Van Halen disbanded after more than 50 years together.

Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage

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