Edward Lodewijk “Eddie” Van Halen died today at the age of 65, after battling throat cancer for several years. He was a stone cold genius who changed the way people looked at and listened to the electric guitar in popular rock music, with perhaps only Jimi Hendrix having had as deep a transformational impact on the instrument and how its players play it. Or at least want to play it, since virtually nobody can do what they did, as well as they did it.
Hearing “Eruption”/”You Really Got Me” on the radio for the first time circa 1978 at Mitchel Field (likely on WLIR 92.7 FM during its beautiful, educational heyday) was a classic “What the HELL was that?!? I MUST HAVE IT RIGHT NOW!!!” moment for me. Here’s a refresher, if you need it:
The self-titled debut album from which those tracks were culled did not disappoint when I acquired it soon thereafter. Big wows, then and now. And a lot of other big wows through the breakup of the original lineup around 1984. (Though their final album of the David Lee Roth era, 1984, didn’t thrill me as much as the five that came before it. Which meant, of course, that it ended up being their biggest commercial hit. Sigh). The debut LP went a long, long way in my Best of the Blockbusters music tournament some years back, and that’s probably where I’ve written the most about my appreciation for it, and them. Give it a skim, if interested.
But then be advised that the very best things I’ve ever read about Eddie, Alex, Mike and Dave (plus Sammy) were written by one of my all-time favorite wordsmiths, the persistently anonymous Mr Thoughts on the Dead. Click on the image below to read his utterly fantastic Van Halen reflections, in three links below the photo on the landing page. Then read this. TotD’s having a shitty 2020, even more than most of us, and this didn’t make it any better. I appreciate him deeply. Hope you will too.
3 thoughts on “Unchained: Eddie Van Halen (1955-2020)”
I just saw a YouTube video of Eddie playing at a Les Paul tribute with Jan Hammer, Tony Levin, and Jerry Marotta. Lots of guys can shred, but nobody seems to have as much fun doing it as Eddie did. I always got the impression that he couldn’t quite believe he was getting paid to do what he loved.
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Was very sorry to hear of Eddie Van Halen’s death as well, such a great guitarist and musical innovator. There’s a miniature community of “bikers” living in the street behind/above me – right in the heart of the whole COVID-19 lockdown during one warm evening, a load of them pulled up in the street behind with an accompanying car, and “Jump” was blasting out of the speakers full volume. It was an oddly poignant moment during the midst of such a fraught time. Very sad news indeed. Oh, and well done for reaching your target on the fundraiser – ride on!
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Thanks for a great VH story, and for congrats on the fundraiser. Both appreciated!