Eddie Van Halen – The Ultimate Guitar Hero

Eddie Van Halen – The Ultimate Guitar Hero

On October 6, 2020, the news of Eddie Van Halen’s passing was a sudden, stunning blow to the Rock music world. Gone at the young age of 65, after a brave battle with lung cancer, Eddie is perhaps one of the most influential guitarist of our time

Last in the public eye when Van Halen toured in 2015, over the last few years, rumors have swirled in the media over alleged communication between former Van Halen Vocalist Sammy Hagar and Bassist Michael Anthony. These rumors led many fans to believe that a possible reunion of one of Van Halen’s classic lineups could be taking place. Unfortunately, the rumors were denied by all parties and nothing ever came of them. 

At that point, the Van Halen camp went quiet for a couple of years. Then Eddie’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, made this heartbreaking announcement on social media: 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. 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. I love you so much, Pop.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

It all came as a shock to fans as Eddie and his family had, understandably, kept his battle with lung cancer quiet. That in mind, as soon as the news broke, fans, fellow musicians, and celebrities all around the world, such as Black Sabbath, Steve Vai, Mötley Crüe, Howard Stern, and so many more, all poured their condolences and heartfelt memories onto social media to a man who is considered a genius at his craft and an inspiration to so many.

Without a doubt, the love shown towards Eddie Van Halen comes at no surprise seeing how this man had an incomparable career as the brilliant guitarist for one of the most infamous bands in all of Rock-n-Roll. As a young and impressionable music fan, Eddie Van Halen actually started out playing the piano and drums, while his older brother, Alex Van Halen, was the first of the two brothers to pick up a guitar. Eventually, Alex would make drumming his sole purpose while Eddie mastered the guitar, not knowing his destiny to forever change the six-string instrument. 

As the planets aligned, Eddie and Alex soon joined up with charismatic Vocalist David Lee Roth and Bassist Michael Anthony, calling their new band Van Halen. Together, these four dynamic talents crafted what would become one of the greatest debut albums of all time when their stunning debut album, 1978’s Van Halen, was released to the masses.

Imagine sitting in your room as a kid and hearing Van Halen for the first time. As that needle dropped, the thump from the opening bass line of “Runnin’ with the Devil” pounded into your brain as Eddie’s crunchy, methodical guitar licks soared out of your stereo speakers. Then the stunning instrumental “Eruption” screamed to the heavens with a deafening, melodic, and mechanical tone like nothing anyone had ever heard before. Taking things to another level, Eddie Van Halen soon revolutionize the guitar, putting the method of harmonics and finger tapping on the map with his unique, signature sound.

From then on, Eddie Van Halen became one of the most recognizable faces in Rock music; ripping it up on hits like “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love,” “Jamie’s Cryin,” and “Unchained.” Furthermore, Eddie became an MTV icon as the legendary video for Van Halen’s mega-hit, “Hot for Teacher,” saw the guitarist perform as he walked across classroom desks in what can be argued as simply the coolest video ever.

Even deeper album cuts like “D.O.A.,” Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” “On Fire,” and “Romeo Delight” undeniably showcased Eddie’s raw power and precision on the guitar. Even more impressive, Van Halen covers like “You Really Got Me” (The Kinks) and “(Oh) Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison) proved how great Eddie was at taking a song by another artist and completely making it his own. 

Eventually, David Lee Roth and Van Halen would part ways and Singer Sammy Hagar would take Van Halen to new heights. In this period, Eddie would evolve into mixing his guitar licks in with some emotional keyboard work as head on tracks like “When It’s Love.” In the Van Hagar era, as many call it, Eddie’s magic touch evolved further through fantastic songs like “Why Can’t This Be Love,” Best of Both Worlds,” “Summer Nights,” “ Feels So Good,” “Poundcake,” and “Right Now.”

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

In later years, Extreme’s Gary Cherone, would take over on vocals for 1998’s Van Halen III. Finally, Van Halen would come full circle as David Lee Roth rejoined the band for 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, now featuring a third family member with Wolfgang Van Halen taking over on bass. An exiting time for fans, sadly A Different Kind of Truth and Van Halen’s 2015 tour would prove to be Eddie, and the band’s, swan song.

Solidifying their legacy, in 2007, Van Halen was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As great of an achievement as it is, this honor cannot do enough justice to what an extraordinary impact Eddie Van Halen had on the world of Rock music. Those who knew Eddie say he was one of the sweetest and most generous people they had ever met. In fact, following the tragic death of Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell in 2004, Eddie granted Dimebag, who idolized Van Halen as a kid, to be buried with the original guitar pictured on the back cover of 1979’s Van Halen II. This is merely one example of Eddie’s warm character. 

Not enough words can express what Eddie Van Halen’s legacy means to the genre of Rock music. Around the world, millions of musicians have been heavily influenced by his unmatched guitar style and larger than life presence. Above all, more than a musician, Eddie was also a beloved friend, bandmate, father, brother, son, and husband.

When you think of the greatest guitarists in the world, names like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Slash, and B.B. King are some that might come to mind. But beyond a shadow of a doubt, Eddie Van Halen established himself as one of, if not, the greatest Rock guitarist in history. After making one of the most immeasurable marks of all-time on music, the spirit of Eddie Van Halen will forever “Light Up The Sky” through his timeless music, never to be forgotten.

L to R – Eddie Van Halen & David Lee Roth live at Jones Beach, NY 8-13-0515. Photo credit: Mark Schoen Photography

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Vito Tanzi
[email protected]

With '80s Metal and '90s Punk Rock flowing through his veins, Vito also enjoys many a variety of other genres. Graduating with a Bachelor’s in Music Business, he loves going to as many live shows as possible and experiencing the music first hand.

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