Eddie Van Halen, one of the most influential and groundbreaking guitarists of all time, has passed away at the age of 65. He had been fighting cancer for several years. His son Wolf Van Halen confirmed the news of his death on Twitter. This follows reports that his bandmate David Lee Roth said he was “not doing well” back in January of this year. In November of 2019 he was hospitalized for a severe reaction to his cancer medication.
“I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning,” he wrote. “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss. I love you so much, Pop.”
— Wolf Van Halen (@WolfVanHalen) October 6, 2020
Van Halen was the lead guitarist for the band that was named after him and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen. The band got started in Pasadena, CA in 1972 and quickly made a name for itself with electrifying live shows in the Los Angeles area. While the band was known for catchy melodies and hard-edged lyrics from original lead singer David Lee Roth, it was the guitar playing of Van Halen that set the band apart from their hard rock competitors. The track “Eruption” from their 1978 self-titled debut album set a template for decades of hard rock and heavy metal guitar playing. Though the song clocked in at less than two minutes, it made an instant impact with the guitarist flying all over the fretboard and essentially inventing two handed finger tapping.
The band would go on to score hits like “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “You Really Got Me,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Dance the Night Away,” “Jump” and “Panama” with original lead singer David Lee Roth. When Roth left the band after the 1984 album, which along with their debut was their biggest selling album, Van Halen continued on with Sammy Hagar and made even more hits like “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “When It’s Love.”
After Hagar’s departure the band continued to lesser success with Gary Cherone of Extreme. They reunited with both Roth and Hagar at different points in the 00’s and beyond with Roth currently serving as the band’s lead singer. In 2019 there were talks of another reunion but former bassist (from the band’s classic lineup) said the talks fell through. Meanwhile, earlier in 2020 Hagar implied that the band would tour in 2021 if the pandemic conditions improved to the point that bands were touring again. That seems much more unlikely now that the band’s namesake and arguably most important member has passed.
Van Halen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 and was voted in at 8th in Rolling Stone’s greatest guitarist poll. The Van Halen brothers are the only two members to remain in the band from 1972 until the present.