It is never easy to bid farewell to an old friend. While we may be left with a tear streaming down our shaken faces, we can crack a grin as we remember what they meant to us and what they left behind. If you have not heard, the world lost one of humanity’s finest musicians and innovators on Oct. 6: at the age of 65, legendary guitarist Edward Lodewijk Van Halen has succumbed to a battle with throat cancer.
The monumental guitarist has shaken the musical world through his various innovations, which had never been heard or thought of previously. To say he was iconic would be a drastic understatement; he was Earth-shatteringly legendary.
Metallica, Randy Rhoades, Mötley Crüe or whoever else you want to put on your list of greatest hard rock to heavy metal groups of all time, each dipped their toes into the extensive examples of Van Halen’s powerful riffs.
Many guitar players all around the world have credited Eddie Van Halen for giving them the inspiration to pick up a guitar. His bombastic guitar tone, combined with the funky basslines of Michael Anthony, the powerful drum beats from his brother Alex Van Halen and the instantly recognizable vocals of singers David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, made Van Halen one of the most successful hard rock groups in the world.
Eddie Van Halen formed the band Van Halen in 1972. Their self-titled album was released in 1978 and is considered one of the most successful debut albums of all time, with classics such as “Running with the Devil,” “You Really Got Me,” “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love” and “Eruption” as the most notable tracks. “Eruption” features a mind-blowing, face-melting guitar solo from Eddie that is considered one of the best solos in rock and roll history. This iconic track is often replicated by guitarists all around the world in tribute to the late great guitarist.
Eddie’s most notable achievement was the popularization of the technique called “tapping,” which would shake the popular guitar world with this album, especially in “Eruption.” Tapping consists of using both hands on the guitar neck which causes the instrument to create an entirely unique sound, which the rock world had not known. The technique had been used before in other genres, but it was not very well-known. It is said that early on, Eddie would use this technique facing away from the crowd in live shows, for he knew that once they saw, others would try to copy. When he eventually turned to face his fans and, in turn, the world, they did just that.
With the massive success of “Van Halen” being seen in the form of a Billboard spot of 19, Van Halen turned their sights to follow it up. They did so in the release of “Van Halen II,” which saw the group’s first hit single. “Dance The Night Away,” “Beautiful Girls” and other works
from the follow-up 1979 album became Van Halen staples and remain amongst rock’s greatest songs.
These two albums would pale in comparison, however, as “1984” smashed the charts, soaring to #2 on the Billboard behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which included “Beat It” — which featured a solo recorded in one take, for free, and uncredited, by Eddie. With monumental classics in “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher” and “Jump,” Van Halen was solidifying itself as a legitimate group. Eddie was quickly rising to the stuff of legends and Roth’s vocals were immaculate. The group was a hard-hitting combination on the rise. Eventually, Roth parted ways with the group, and the band equipped the services of Sammy Hagar. Later notable songs from the group include: “Get Up,” “Unchained” and “Black and Blue,” among countless others.
Through his extensive career, Eddie would make several appearances in Hollywood alongside his bleeding guitar. Several blockbusters line his repertoire of appearances such as “Twister” and “Back To The Future.” Eddie would also collaborate with several artists, such as the aforementioned Michael Jackson as well as accompanying Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath on tour. In such a broad world of music, Eddie made his mark, and it still remains fervent to this day.
Although he was quiet about it, Eddie was first diagnosed with cancer in 2001. Despite this, he fought bravely for the next 19 years and never gave up hope. During that time, he reunited the band with original frontman David Lee Roth in 2007 and put out their first album of original material since 1984 when they released “A Different Kind of Truth” in 2012. In 2015, the band released their first-ever live album with Roth, titled “Tokyo Dome Live in Concert.” Following this release, Van Halen embarked on their last concert tour which took place across the United States in 2015. The band even made a local stop at the Susquehanna Bank Center (now known as the BB&T Pavilion) in Camden, New Jersey, and performed to a sold-out crowd. Eddie remained out of the spotlight for the final few years of his life and was rarely seen in public following the 2015 Van Halen tour. One of his last public appearances was at a Tool concert back in 2019. Prior to his death, doctors learned that his cancer was rapidly spreading to his brain. He fought long and hard to beat this terrible disease and get back on the stage where he belonged, but all good things must come to an end, and it was his time.
Undoubtedly, Eddie Van Halen was amongst the greatest musicians to walk this Earth. His influence is heard in an abundance of artists both in the past and today. His innovations would mark a shift in rock and roll history and the world would never be the same. He was a devoted husband, father, brother and friend who gave his all to those he loved.
Eddie, we can never thank you enough for the inspiration, joy, love and example you gave us. You will always be remembered and cherished by those whose hearts you touched. Not only were you an amazing musician, but you were also an amazing father to your son Wolfgang, who has grown up to follow in your footsteps and achieve fame and success. May your guitar reach the ears and souls of those who need its awe-inspiring power, and may those who live by your example practice your dedication and passion for the craft. May those who cry for you crack a grin in remembrance of your legacy, for we know that is what you would want.
Rest in peace, friend.
Erick Klambara is a second-year student majoring in media and cultures. EK924666@wcupa.edu
Joseph Gill is a second-year English writings major. JG923276@wcupa.edu