R.I.P. Eddie Van Halen: Remembering One of Rock’s Greatest Guitarists
On Oct. 6, legendary guitar player and musician Eddie Van Halen passed away after a five-year battle with throat cancer. Van Halen’s son Wolfgang broke the news that his father had passed away on social media.
Van Halen was hospitalized in 2019 for throat cancer. He was only 65 years old when he passed away.
Edward Lodewjik Van Halen was born on Jan. 26, 1955 in Amsterdam, Netherlands but moved to Pasadena, California in 1962. At the age of six, both Eddie and his brother Alex learned to play the piano.
Before playing his signature guitar, Eddie also learned to play the drums but switched with his brother as Alex’s drumming improved. Then, in 1972, the Van Halen brothers formed a band called Genesis but later renamed themselves Mammoth to avoid confusion with the British progressive rock band of the same name.
In 1974, the band finally settled on the name Van Halen and, with bassist Michael Anthony and frontman David Lee Roth in tow, would soon take the music world by storm.
After three years of club gigs and building a popular following, Van Halen released its debut album, simply titled “Van Halen,” on Feb. 10, 1978.
The band created a sound fueled by the heavy style of Led Zeppelin and Cream matched with a pop focus. As such, Van Halen found immediate success. Songs like “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “You Really Got Me,” a cover of the Kinks classic, and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love” propelled the album to sell millions of copies, the number now sitting at 10 million.
Eddie’s signature tapping technique, which uses both the left and right hands to tap the guitar string on the fretboard, gave his guitar a fast and explosive sound. His talent was on display for all to hear in “Eruption,” a two-minute-long guitar solo that still stands as the best example of his guitar prowess.
With their high energy live performances to go with their accessible sound and Eddie’s guitar playing, Van Halen released 12 studio albums. Despite the eventual departure of David Lee Roth, who was replaced with Sammy Hagar, the band remained insanely successful.
Eddie also experimented with synthesizers and other various instruments to great success on songs like “Jump,” “I’ll Wait,” “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Dreams.” During the ‘80s, Eddie also contributed the guitar parts for Michael Jackson’s mega hit “Beat It.”
Eddie also collaborated with a number of other artists throughout his career. Highlights include Black Sabbath, Brian May and LL Cool J.
Friends and family described Eddie as a fun-loving man and a great father. One of his greatest joys was being able to play with his son Wolfgang, who eventually replaced bassist Michael Anthony in Van Halen.
Eddie’s former band members, including Roth, Hagar, Anthony and singer Gary Cherone, all posted tributes to him on social media. His brother Alex has not yet made a statement.
Family members, friends and fans around the world will always remember Eddie Van Halen as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. None will ever forget his energy or his talent. He was truly a legend.
David Fortunato is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism