On Oct. 6, the world lost the man, the myth, the legend — Eddie Van Halen. After a long battle with throat cancer, Van Halen finally said goodbye to the world at 65 years old. Though his guitar is now placed on its stand, the notes that Eddie shredded will forever ring in the ears of rock ‘n’ roll fans. With his wild riffs, insane use of tapping (he was the one who brought back its popularity), strong vocals and down to earth lyrics, it is unanimous that Eddie Van Halen is considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Growing up, Van Halen had a passion for music. At a very young age, he knew that he wanted to pursue music as a full-time job, rather than working a 9 to 5 job. It’s easy to see why he would want to: he was multi-gifted; starting with the piano, winning competitions for three consecutive years. Moving forward, he decided to pick up drums. Though he showed potential, he knew that those two instruments were not his true calling; instead the drums were his brother’s passion. As soon as he picked up the guitar, his search was over, and his journey to music virtuosity began. It was an outlet for him, in some sort of way: his talent surpassed the adversity he faced growing up, such as poverty (his father took on multiple jobs to make ends meet), racism (he was Dutch-Indonesian) and not being from America (he was born in Amsterdam).
Though it appeared that the odds were stacked against him and his brother, Alex, he pushed through and found the joy of music through his parents and continued to make something happen with it. It wasn’t until the 1970s where Eddie Van Halen and his brother, along with a couple of friends, formed Van Halen, both following the new hard sound of rock and becoming trailblazers for hard rock, combining the virtuosity of classical music and blues. From then on, despite having some lineup changes, the band Van Halen has become quintessential for classic rock fans.
It wasn’t just the music Eddie played; it was also the techniques used that were considered radical at the time: for instance, “Running with the Devil” experiments with using unusual objects and noises as instrumentation. . His use of found sounds, like car horns, in the mix sets a nervous tone for the track. Their songs weren’t just instrumental, they were creative, and sometimes sonically challenging. There were other techniques Eddie used that are still practiced today, such as tapping, which can be heard on “Hot for Teacher,” one of the best feel good songs in Van Halen’s discography. It didn’t matter which song was on rotation, whether it’s “Jamie’s Cryin’,” “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” or “Eruption/ You Really Got Me,” Eddie’s voice and guitar shredding commanded attention for the right reason. His music was the soundtrack of the 1970s and 1980s.
Eddie Van Halen will be missed, but not forgotten.