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Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen
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On October 6, 2020, Eddie Van Halen died of throat cancer at age 65. As the engine behind the namesake band, Van Halen, Eddie was the guitar world’s biggest hero for almost half a century. He was a spirited innovator who revolutionized the way guitar was played, the way guitars, amps, and effects were designed, and the way rock bands dressed and behaved. From Van Halen’s debut album, Van Halen, to the band’s final studio release, A Different Kind of Truth, Eddie continually reinvented the wheel. He came up with dazzling new playing techniques, innovated gear, and influenced every guitar player to follow. The top acts from Pop, Rock, Metal and even Country were inspired by his forward thinking approach to everything he touched. As a guitarist, songwriter, and producer, Eddie’s music reflected an open mindedness and willingness to take risks. Eddie Van Halen never backed down, and that's what made him a legend.

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United States
Heinrich Bauer Publishing, L. P.

in this issue

4 min.
why we love eddie van halen

On October 6, 2020, less than a month after the revival of the electric guitar was celebrated in The New York Times, Eddie Van Halen died of throat cancer at the age of 65. As the engine behind the namesake band, Van Halen, Eddie was the guitar world’s most prominent figure for nearly half a century. He was a spirited innovator who revolutionized the way guitar was played, the way guitars, amps and effects were designed, and the way rock bands dressed and behaved for the MTV generation. From Van Halen’s 1978 self-titled debut album to the band’s final studio release, 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, Eddie reinvented relentlessly. He came up with playing techniques that dazzled while never failing to serve the music it supported. His visionary approach to…

6 min.
the beginning

Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was born on January 6, 1955, in the city of Nijmegen in the Netherlands’ province of Gelderland. Lodewijk is a Dutch translation of Ludwig—as in Ludwig Van Beethoven—so Eddie had a legendary music connection right from birth. Nobody, however, could have predicted that Eddie Van Halen would go on to revolutionize the music world. Eddie’s father, Jan Van Halen, was a Dutch jazz musician with classical training in clarinet and saxophone. While on tour in Indonesia, Jan met Eugenia van Beers, an Indonesian–Dutch woman, and they married and eventually moved to Europre. When gigs began drying up for Jan, the family—which included oldest son Alex and Eddie—decided it was time to pack up and head to America. On the boat, Jan performed to pay his family’s way. Young…

3 min.
the players who influenced eddie

ERIC CLAPTON Eric Clapton was Eddie’s first guitar influence, with his live Cream performances having the most significant impact. While Clapton’s “Slowhand” sobriquet might seemingly be at odds with Eddie’s flashy, high-octane style, Eddie was drawn to Clapton’s playing. “With his feel, he’d hit one note where someone else would hit 20, and it would really do something to you,” Eddie told Guitar World (January, 1981), “whereas another person’s 20 would leave you flat.” Eric Clapton’s solos on “Crossroads” and “I’m So Glad,” in particular, had a profound impact on Eddie. Of “I’m So Glad,” Eddie told Guitar World (July, 1985), “For my mind, nothing has matched it to this day.” STEVE LUKATHER Session ace Steve Lukather, who has played guitar on a wide variety of pop albums, was allegedly referred to by…

7 min.
becoming van halen

Lots of kids in the late ’60s and early ’70s formed rock bands. Many of those bands took the next step and got to play some gigs. But few of those bands broke through. When bassist Michael Anthony replaced Mark Stone, Van Halen began to separate from everyone else. Their sound was big and crowd-pleasing. Van Halen left SoCal’s backyard concert scene and headed to Hollywood, where the action was. Once there, they secured a residency at Gazzarri’s, a Sunset Strip hotspot. On May 9, 1976, Van Halen played the Golden West Ballroom with UFO, a band with rising guitar hero Michael Schenker in its lineup. This was Van Halen’s first all-original performance—previous shows had a mixture of covers and originals—and it was electrifying. At the end of their set, Van Halen…

2 min.
the first albums

1 / VAN HALEN The first single from the band’s self-titled debut album was a cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” done in the inimitable Van Halen style with three-part harmonies, pinch harmonic squeals, kill-switch flutters and, of course, some two-handed tapping. Van Halen also gave birth to such certifiable Van Halen classics as “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” which was written around a simple two-chord figure (Am-G) and was a jab at the simplicity of punk rock guitar riffs. 2 / VAN HALEN II Eddie reprised his tapping ferociousness on Van Halen II with an acoustic angle on “Spanish Fly,” and he showed off another side of his personality on the 30-second unaccompanied, harmonic-laden, clean guitar intro to “Women in Love.” The album also features other greats like “Beautiful Girls,” which,…

5 min.
the innovator

What type of music did Van Halen play? The most common answers are “hard rock” and “heavy metal.” Sounds and songs throughout Van Halen’s discography, however, contradict those labels—or any other label. You will hear flamenco guitar on one album, disco on another, chicken-pickin’ country and Delta blues on others. Yet somehow, when these influences were woven into a Van Halen song, it also always sounded like Van Halen. This diversity of sound comes from Eddie’s approach to music. He didn’t believe in following conventional formulas. He confidently broke the rules in every situation where doing so was the best course of action for him to achieve his goal. In his ever-evolving musical quest, he became a sonic innovator who continually injected fresh sounds into every album. For the majority of music…