Eddie Van Halen death: Revered guitarist dies aged 65

Van Halen made history as one of the most celebrated guitarists of all time

Clémence Michallon
New York City
Wednesday 07 October 2020 07:25
Van Halen performs Panama at Billboard Awards 2015
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Eddie Van Halen has died at the age of 65 after being diagnosed with throat cancer.

His son Wolfgang Van Halen announced the news on Twitter on Tuesday, paying tribute to “the best father I could ever ask for”.

Van Halen, a native of the Netherlands who moved to Pasadena, California, made rock and roll history as one of the most celebrated guitarists of all time. He co-founded the band Van Halen with his brother Alex.

“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 musician’s son wrote on social media.

“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.” 

The Van Halen brothers founded the namesake hard rock band in the early 1970s. In 1978, Van Halen released a self-titled first album, which shot to number 19 on the Billboard charts and became one of the decade’s most successful debuts.

It was followed several years later by the blockbuster record 1984 (named after the year of its release), which includes classics such as “Jump”, “Panama”, and “Hot for Teacher”.

Van Halen has lived on as one of the most iconic rock acts in the industry. The band is among the 20 best-selling artists of all time and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Eddie Van Halen himself landed in eighth position on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists.

An autodidact, Eddie Van Halen created some of the most distinctive guitar riffs in rock history. He, his drummer brother,  vocalist David Lee Roth, and bassist Michael Anthony were members of rival high school bands, then attended Pasadena City College together. They originally combined to form the band Mammoth, but changed the name to Van Halen in 1974 after finding out another band had already used the name Mammoth. 

The band’s 1978 debut contained the track “Eruption”, a 1:42 minute guitar solo that revealed the magnitude of Eddie Van Halen’s talent to the world. 

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In Rolling Stone, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam likened listening to the track to hearing Mozart for the first time, commenting: "He gets sounds that aren't necessarily guitar sounds — a lot of harmonics, textures that happen just because of how he picks."

Between Van Halen and 1984, the band released a new album almost every year: Van Halen II in 1979, Women and Children First in 1980, Fair Warning in 1981, and Diver Down in 1982. Rolling Stone gave 1984  the 81st spot on its ranking of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s.

“Eddie put the smile back in rock guitar, at a time when it was all getting a bit brooding.” fellow rock virtuoso Joe Satriani told Billboard in 2015. “He also scared the hell out of a million guitarists around the world, because he was so damn good. And original.”

Eddie Van Halen was treated for a form of mouth cancer in the 2000s. His son Wolfgang replaced Michael Anthony as Van Halen’s bassist in 2006.

Additional reporting by agencies

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