When Sammy Hagar Got His Jimmy Buffett On With ‘Livin’ It Up’
Sammy Hagar has never been the kind of guy to hide his feelings, making it plain for all to see that he'd been having quite a grand time down in his Mexican retreat at Cabo Wabo. Livin' It Up, released on July 25, 2006, was a celebration of that lifestyle.
He'd spent a couple of trying years in which he'd briefly reunited with Van Halen, first to record a few new tracks for a double-disc greatest hits release, and then to tour until their already strained relationship collapsed under numerous strains. Hagar then moved his family to Cabo San Lucas for an entire year.
He kept his backing band, the Waboritas – guitarist Vic Johnson, bassist Mona Gnader and drummer David Lauser – on salary and standby during this period. "I wrote my next album, Livin' It Up, pretty much about everything I was doing – 'Feet in the Sand,' 'Living on the Coastline,' all those songs," Hagar said in his autobiography, Red.
There was a lifestyle-based approach to Livin' It Up, as if Jimmy Buffett had possessed Hagar's muse and helped him pen sun-kissed, laid-back and mostly acoustic songs like "Mexico," "The Way We Live" and Sailin'."
Hagar notes in Red that he met country star Kenny Chesney during that ill-fated Van Halen tour. "We went back to my dressing room and played acoustic guitars, singing 'I'll Fall in Love Again,' 'Eagles Fly' and all these songs of mine that he loved. We were drinking tequila and singing until 3 in the morning. He became one of my dear friends." That friendship yielded the chummy, Latin horn-adorned "One Sip" for Livin' It Up.
Likewise, Toby Keith – another country artist – also came to Hagar via a Van Halen connection. "I decided to do his 'I Love This Bar' during my acoustic segment and worked up this whole deal with Toby," Hagar wrote in Red. "Toby walked out onstage halfway through the song and the place exploded." Sure enough, when time came to record Livin' It Up, "I Love This Bar" was another perfect fit.
One final curiosity found on Livin' It Up is a rambunctious, almost vaudeville-style cover of Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35," which was probably recorded mostly so everyone within earshot could gleefully sing "everybody must get stoned" a dozen times over. All of which underscores the fact that the LP was all about having a good time, Sammy Hagar style.
Even though this meant selling quite a few less records than he would have by rocking out, Hagar probably didn't care that the album crested at No. 50 on the Billboard chart. After all, what was left for him to prove? Livin' It Up is the sound of an artist enjoying the benefits of his life.
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