In Memoriam: Eddie Van Halen (1955-2020)
Edward Lodewijk “Eddie” Van Halen – legendary guitarist and founder of Van Halen – has passed away due to throat cancer. He was 65 years old.
“I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning,” the younger Van Halen wrote. “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift.”
“My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss,” he continued. “I love you so much, Pop.”
Eddie Van Halen inspired a generation of guitarists with his innovative, ambitious and incendiary playing. He popularized the now-ubiquitous style of “tapping,” where a player uses both their left and right hand fingers to fret notes, creating a rapid-fire or cascading effect. For many, the most well-known example of this is Van Halen’s 1978 track “Eruption.”
Van Halen was born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 1955. In 1962, he, his parents and his elder brother Alex moved to Pasadena, Calif. Beginning at the age of six, both boys began to learn the piano. While he excelled at the instrument (as well as drums, which he took up later), eventually Eddie settled on the guitar, while Alex committed to drums. The two formed their first band in elementary school.
In 1972, the Van Halen brothers formed a new band called “Genesis,” with Eddie on guitar and vocals, Alex on drums and Mark Stone on bass. After discovering that name was in use (and after a brief spell as “Mammoth”), the band settled on Van Halen as the name, and recruited vocalist David Lee Roth as the frontman. In 1978, they released their first full-length album, Van Halen, which included classics “Runnin’ From The Devil” and the aforementioned “Eruption.” The band continued to release records that were both commercially and critically successful, culminating in 1984’s release of 1984, which included such classics as “Jump,” “Panama,” “Drop Dead Legs” and “Hot For Teacher.”
In addition to his work in Van Halen, Eddie contributed the famous guitar solo for Michael Jackson’s hit “Beat It,” worked with members of Black Sabbath on the song “Evil Eye” and even collaborated with LL Cool J.
Eddie Van Halen’s influence on rock and roll and on guitar is incalculable. He was a relentless innovator who pushed the boundaries of rock music throughout his career. He will be dearly missed.
“Eddie Van Halen was a guitar superhero. A true virtuoso. A stunningly good musician and composer,” Dead & Company guitarist John Mayer wrote in the wake of his passing. “Looking up to him as a young kid was one of the driving forces in my needing to pick up a guitar. I was so blown away watching him exert such control and expression over his instrument. Learning to play the guitar taught me so many things, but still absolutely nothing about how to play like Eddie Van Halen. And for that reason, I never stopped watching him in adolescent awe and wonder, and I promise you I never will.”
Added Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, “Rest In Peace, EVH. One of the greatest, most inventive, truly visionary musicians of all time. An unparalleled titan in the annals of rock n roll. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for every spectacular note.”
Read his son Wolf’s full statement below and watch Van Halen perform “Hot For Teacher” live in 1984 below: