The Van Halen Song Sammy Hagar Always Struggled to Sing

Taking over the front of Van Halen was no easy feat, but Sammy Hagar made it look so easy. A year after replacing David Lee Roth, Hagar’s vocals were something no one had ever heard on any of the band’s albums and helped catapult Van Halen’s eighth album 5150 in 1986. Topping the Billboard 200, 5150 was the band’s most successful album and delivered Hagar’s powerhouse vocals, but singing one of its tracks live became a struggle.

The harder-hitting anthemic “Dreams” from 5150 featured some of the highest notes Hagar had ever sung, and was a song he admitted challenged him right from the start. While the majority of the tracks tuned down to fit his thicker, raspy vocals, “Dreams” stretched his tenor range to its limits.

“Every time I hear a live performance of ‘Dreams,’ I shake and scratch my head and wonder ‘What was I thinking singing in that register?’ revealed Hagar of “Dreams” in 2021. “The hardest song to sing night after night of any song I’ve written in my life.”

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Producer Mick Jones was partly to blame for pushing Hagar to his limit vocally on the track. “I worked very long and hard with him on that, and he told me it was one of his all-time favorite performances,” said Jones. “He was singing so high that he was hyperventilating. He almost passed out. I really pushed him, but we got it.”

Hagar’s Favorite VH Song

Whatever Hagar’s challenges were in singing “Dreams,” it was not for nothing. Released on May 24, 1986, “Dreams” hit No. 6 on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart and peaked at No. 22 on the Hot 100, and remains one of the band’s most well-known songs.

“For me ‘Dreams’ was always one of the high points of the show,” shared Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony in 2021. “Sammy singing that high night after night blows my mind.”

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Despite his long struggles with the song, Hagar revealed that “Dreams” is still one of his favorite Van Halen songs, along with “Right Now.”

In 2014, Hagar also released a newly recorded version of “Dreams” on his 17th solo album Lite Roast.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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