The legendary guitarist passed away Tuesday after a “long and arduous” battle with cancer.
Rock icon Eddie Van Halen passed away on October 6 after a lengthy and valiant fight against cancer. In a heartfelt post to Instagram, Van Halen’s son and bandmate Wolfgang Van Halen confirmed his father’s passing, writing “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift.”
Eddie Van Halen was 65-years-old.
Born Edward Lodewijk Van Halen in Amsterdam in 1955, he formed Van Halen along with his brother and drummer Alex Van Halen, singer David Lee Roth, and bassist Michael Anthony in the mid-seventies in Pasadena, California. They quickly earned a reputation for playing wild and rowdy backyard parties that would draw thousands of kids in attendance — a phenomenon that became a regular thorn in the side of Southern California law enforcement as the word of mouth about Van Halen spread and the band’s popularity grew.
Musically, Van Halen’s intense sound drew heavily from Edward and Alex’s love of early hard rock groups like Cream, Ten Years After, and Black Sabbath. Meanwhile, Roth — insecure about his vocal ability — would work crowds endlessly, like a red-hot ringmaster leading the circus through Los Angeles County. These tales and more are chronicled in the definitive book on Van Halen’s formation, Van Halen Rising, by author Greg Renoff.
Behind the music, the four members of Van Halen’s contrasting personalities were immediately evident to all, but upon the release of their debut LP Van Halen in 1978, the group became not just a hard rock and heavy metal sensation, they quickly achieved international mega-stardom with multiple chart-topping albums, and in the years to come, they solidified themselves as a top-touring act with their high-flying live show.
As a guitarist, Eddie Van Halen made his mark as a world-class player on that first LP with the instrumental classic, “Eruption.” In less than two minutes, the landscape of rock ‘n’ roll, particularly in America, was permanently reshaped by Edward’s unforgettable popularization of the tapping guitar technique.
As the news of Van Halen’s death circulated throughout the music community, many of his friends took to social media to mourn his passing. Singer Sammy Hagar—who replaced Roth in Van Halen in 1986—tweeted a picture of himself with EVH, writing, “Heartbroken and speechless. My love to the family.”
Heartbroken and speechless. My love to the family. pic.twitter.com/MQMueMF2XO— Sammy Hagar (@sammyhagar) October 6, 2020
Ozzy Osbourne also expressed his condolences, saying Van Halen “was one of the nicest guys I ever worked with and we shared so many laughs together. His influence on music and especially the guitar has been immeasurable. He was an absolute legend.”
. @EddieVanHalen was one of the nicest guys I ever worked with and we shared so many laughs together. His influence on music and especially the guitar has been immeasurable. He was an absolute legend. Eddie, I’ll see you on the other side, my friend. Love, Ozzy.— Ozzy Osbourne (@OzzyOsbourne) October 6, 2020
As the support act for Van Halen on their 1991 “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” tour, Alice In Chains weren’t always greeted by an enthusiastic audience. But the union ultimately proved to be successful, and both bands maintained a friendship through the years. Today the group tweeted a photo of an onstage prank they played on Van Halen with the quote, “Thank you, Eddie, for all you did for us. You are a legend and you will be missed,” acknowledging the painful loss of a mentor and friend.
Thank you, Eddie, for all you did for us. You are a legend and you will be missed. 🖤 EVH pic.twitter.com/kJ0FHkFCQn— Alice in Chains (@AliceInChains) October 6, 2020
Edward had maintained a relatively low-key profile over the last 20 years, compared to the hard-partying lifestyle he maintained during the 80s and 90s. As one person familiar with the situation told The Aquarian, “People who know [EVH] have been prepping for this moment, but he’s been out of the limelight for a bit now, so a lot of people are surprised.”
In 2012, the Van Halen brothers reunited with Roth and recruited Wolfgang to play bass on A Different Kind of Truth—which now has the distinction of being that last Van Halen studio LP that Edward would play on. The album and subsequent world tour was by most measures successful, but when asked about any further plans the band was predictably cagey. In retrospect, concerns for Eddie’s health was likely the reason for the tight-lipped vagueness.
Eddie Van Halen changed the game forever with his rich tone, crazed style, and off-the-charts technique. But go beyond that, and his contributions to Van Halen helped shape an entire culture to come. He will never be forgotten, and his legacy will be that of an innovator.