Michael AnthonyView in iTunes
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Out of all the members who passed through the Van Halen ranks over the years, the one who has received the least amount of publicity and recognition (for either his playing or off-stage antics) is bassist Michael Anthony. But along with the Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Anthony has been the only other bandmember to appear on every single Van Halen album. Born on June 20, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois, Anthony inherited his interest in music from his father, a trumpet player. As a youngster, Anthony had picked up the trumpet himself, before discovering rock & roll and switching to guitar, and later, bass. Upon relocating to California with his family, Anthony began playing in a variety of local rock bands. The early '70s saw Anthony play in a trio called Snake, for which Anthony also doubled on lead vocals. It was during this time that Anthony attended Pasadena City College, and it was in a music theory class that he met drummer Alex Van Halen, who along with his brother, guitarist Eddie, played in a band called Mammoth. The brothers began to borrow Anthony's PA for gigs, and soon after, invited Anthony to join their group; they had already enlisted a charismatic singer by the name of David Lee Roth. Although Anthony's days as a lead singer were over, he was responsible for all of the group's impressive backing and harmony vocals (which many mistakenly assumed was Eddie's over the years). After several years of playing the Sunset Strip, the quartet, then known as Van Halen, signed a deal with Warner Bros., and quickly became one of the world's top hard rock bands. Unlike Eddie, Anthony's playing style was basic and unflashy, but the guitarist often praised Anthony for his ability to keep things simple and hold down the groove (while Eddie shredded away). A string of classic releases with Roth followed throughout the late '70s and early '80s -- 1978's Van Halen, 1979's Van Halen II, 1980s Women and Children First, 1981's Fair Warning, 1982's Diver Down, and 1984's 1984 -- but although it appeared on-stage and in interviews that the bandmembers got along, this didn't prove to be the case. Roth exited the group in 1985, and was replaced soon after with Sammy Hagar. The Hagar version of Van Halen remained a major force, resulting in such further hit recordings as 1986's 5150, 1988's OU812, 1991's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and 1995's Balance, before it was time for a new frontman switch. It initially appeared as though Roth was back in the saddle, but ex-Extreme frontman Gary Cherone got the nod, resulting the disastrous 1998 release, Van Halen III. Mercifully, Cherone only lasted for a single release before being ousted. With the future of Van Halen in doubt, Anthony kept himself busy by gigging sporadically with ex-bandmate Hagar, and appearing on such Hagar releases as 2003's Live Hallelujah. Whether Anthony will ever get the chance to appear on another new Van Halen album is uncertain, but regardless, he was a part of one of rock's all-time greats. ~ Greg Prato