Eddie Van Halen Dies at 65

    Eddie Van Halen, the legendary guitarist and one of the namesakes behind the hard rock group Van Halen, has died following a long battle with throat cancer. He was 65 years old.

    His death was confirmed by his son, Wolf Van Halen, via Twitter. “I can’t believe I’m having to write this,” he wrote, “but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift.”

    Edward Lodewjk Van Halen was born on January 26th, 1955, in Nijmegen, Netherlands. The son of classical musician Jan van Halen, he and his family moved to Pasadena, California, in 1962. Eddie started taking piano lessons at an early age before picking up the guitar, citing Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page as his biggest influences. He and his brother, Alex, formed their first rock band in the mid-1960s, changing multiple names before settling on Van Halen in 1972.  By 1974, their lineup included Eddie on guitar, Alex on drums, frontman David Lee Roth as frontman, and bassist Michael Anthony.

    After playing in West Hollywood clubs and making a demo produced by Kiss’ Gene Simmons, the band signed to Warner Bros. Records and released their self-titled debut album in 1978. Selling over 10 million copies, Van Halen included the classic track ‘Eruption’, a less-than-two minute instrumental that showcased Eddie’s impressive guitar chops and signature finger tapping guitar technique.

    Van Halen became increasingly successful in the late ’70s and early ’80s, from their 1979 hit ‘Dance the Night Away’ to their best-selling sixth LP, 1984, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart and spawned the chart-topping single ‘Jump’ as well as ‘Panama’ and ‘Hot for Teacher’. At the No. 1 spot was Michael Jackson’s Thriller, whose iconic ‘Beat It’ featured a solo from none other than Eddie Van Halen.

    David Lee Roth left the band shortly after to pursue a solo career, with the remaining members of Van Halen regrouping around Sammy Hagar, who fronted the band through the rest of the 1980s and most of the 1990s. Van Halen made one record with Extreme frontman Gary Cherone, 1998’s Van Halen III.

    Though Van Halen never fully broke up, Eddie Van Halen’s various health issues occasionally forced the band into hiatus, including his hip-replacement surgery in 1999 and a bout with tongue cancer in the early 2000s. Around the same time, the band briefly got back together with Sammy Hagar before he left for the final time in 2005. David Lee Roth rejoined Van Halen shortly after, releasing their first album together in more than twenty years, A Different Kind of Truth, in 2012.

    Eddie’s son, Wolf, joined Van Halen as a bassist after Michael Anthony left the group in 2006. A year later, Van Halen were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis is a writer, journalist, and music editor at Our Culture. His work has also appeared in Pitchfork, GIGsoup, and other publications. He currently lives in Athens, Greece.

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