Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Eddie Van Halen has died at 65 🎸

Eddie Van Halen died of throat cancer today.

The New York Times says:

Eddie Van Halen, the immensely influential guitarist whose band, Van Halen, was one of the most popular rock acts of all time, died on Tuesday. He was 65.…

Mr. Van Halen’s razzle-dazzle appoach made him the most influential guitarist of his generation. He structured his solos in roughly the same way Macy’s choreographs its Independence Day fireworks shows, shooting rockets of sound into the air that seemed to explode in a shower of light and color. His outpouring of riffs, runs and solos was hyperactive and athletic, joyous and wry, making deeper or darker emotions feel irrelevant.

“Eddie put the smile back in rock guitar at a time when it was all getting a bit broody,” his fellow guitar ace Joe Satriani told Billboard in 2015. “He also scared the hell out of a million guitarists because he was so damn good.”

Mr. Van Halen was most widely revered by his peers for perfecting the technique of two-handed tapping on the guitar neck. That approach allowed him to add new textures, and percussive possibilities, to his instrument, while also making its six strings sound as expressive as a piano’s 88 keys or as changeable as a synthesizer. He received patents for three guitar devices he had created. In 2012, Guitar World Magazine ranked him No. 1 on its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” ...

His showstopping solo piece ... “Eruption,” [from Van Halen's 1978 self-titled debut album,] showcased his finger-tapping technique, which set a new bar for guitar pyrotechnics. While other guitarists — notably Allan Holdsworth, a major influence — had used this approach before, Mr. Van Halen had noticed that “nobody was going more than just one stretch and one note, real quick,” he said in a 1979 interview that was published 20 years later in Classic Rock magazine. “I hadn’t really seen anyone get into it as far as they could.” ...

In his 1979 interview, Mr. Van Halen clarified his guiding principle for the band. “All we’re trying to do is put excitement back into rock ’n' roll,” he said. “A lot of people seem like they forgot what rock ’n' roll is about. We’re very energetic. We get up there and blaze.”

Here he is play "Eruption" live — a literal guitar “solo,” just him alone:

More from the obit:

“I’m always pushing things past where they’re supposed to be,” Mr. Van Halen told the educational website Zocalo Public Square in 2015. “When ‘Spinal Tap’ was going to 11, I was going to 15,” he said....

The zest in Mr. Van Halen’s playing paired perfectly with the hedonistic songs and persona of his hard-rocking band, Van Halen, whose original lineup featured his brother Alex on pummeling drums, Michael Anthony on thunderous bass and the singer David Lee Roth, who presented a scene-stealing mix of Lothario, peacock and clown.

He played the guitar solo in Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (starting a little more than 3 minutes in):

The New York Times on his early years:
Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was born on Jan. 26, 1955, in Amsterdam to Jan and Eugenia (Beers) Van Halen. His father, a struggling Dutch classical musician who played clarinet, saxophone and piano, met his Indonesian-born wife while on tour in Indonesia.

In 1962, when Mr. Van Halen was 7, his family relocated to the United States, driven away by prejudice against his mother and unfavorable work opportunities in the Netherlands. They settled in Pasadena, Calif. ...

In a new country, with a new language to learn, the Van Halen sons, Eddie and his older brother, Alex, turned to music as their lingua franca. Eddie first studied classical piano, which he excelled at despite a serious limitation.

“I never learned how to read music,” he told Rolling Stone in 1995. “I fooled my teacher for six years. He never knew. I’d watch his fingers, and I’d play it.”
"Hot for Teacher":

And here's Van Halen's "Right Now":

UPDATE: The day after Eddie Van Halen died, Sammy Hagar performed that song live after a moment of silence (near the end of this video).

A quote by him from this MTV mini-documentary where he gave a tour of his home studio:

"Lawyers and doctors, they're still 'practicing' — they ain't got it down yet, you know? It's music theory, not music fact. There are no rules. I never learned how to read music. Maybe that's why I'm so twisted and unorthodox. But if I would've taken guitar lessons … I wouldn't do all the silly stuff that I do."