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Rock Legend Eddie Van Halen Passes Away

October 6, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

2020 has claimed a true giant in the rock industry, as legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen has passed away. Van Halen’s son and bandmate Wolfgang posted to Instagram on Monday to announce that his father passed away after a battle with cancer that he had been diagnosed with in 2014, though the battle was not revealed until last year. He was 65.

Van Halen is best known as a founding member of the band that was named after him and his brother Alex. Born in Amsterdam in 1955, Van Halen moved with his family to California in 1962 and learned to play the piano at the young age of six. Despite never learning how to read music, Van Halen learned from watching and listening to people perform and would improvise when he needed to. He moved on to drumming when he found piano not interesting or challenging and after Alex began playing the guitar, which he eventually followed suit to with the electric guitar. The brothers formed their first band in Elementary School, when Eddie was in the fourth grade.

In 1972, the two formed the band that would become Van Halen, which became the group’s name in 1974. They became regular performers on the Los Angeles club scene and signed their first contract in 1977. Their debut album, Van Halen, released in 1978 and was an instant smash, both critically and commercially, becoming certified Diamond eventually, and catapulted the group into becoming one of the most successful rock acts of all-time.

Each of their first five albums were certified at least double platinum, but it was 1984 that became their biggest album with a five-times platinum certification in just a year (it has since gone Diamond with over 10 million copies sold). 1984 spawned some of the band’s most biggest songs like “Jump,” “Panama,” and “Hot For Teacher” which were among the most iconic hard rock songs of the 1980s. The rise of MTV helped fuel the band’s success with music videos that rank among the most memorable of the era. “Jump” also earned the group a Grammy nomination.

Van Halen would have ups and downs of success, but For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is a clear high. The 1991 LP brought major hits for the group including “Right Now” and won them their first Grammy Award, for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocals. The group had a rotating lineup that was often fueled with drama, particularly around vocalist David Lee Roth and vocalist/guitarist Sammy Hagar, but Eddie and Alex remained the constants of the group. The two remained part of the band they founded through its entire run. Van Halen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 — though Eddie could not attend due to health issues — and have numerous accolades to their name, along with over 80 million albums sold worldwide.

Amidst all of the accolades was particular acclaim for Eddie himself, who has regular topped or ranked in the top handful of places on lists of the best guitarists of all-time. He popularized (but did not invent) the technique of guitar tapping, popularized on the 1978 instrutmental track “Eruption.” His innovative style of guitar work has influenced more than one generation of artists at this point, and he even held three patents related to guitars including a flip-out support device that allows performers to play the guitar like a piano with the face upward.

Outside of Van Halen, Eddie had several famous works as well. He performed the iconic guitar work in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” co-wrote Black Sabbath’s “Evil Eye,” and recorded demos with Alex as well as Gene Simmons of KISS.

On behalf of 411, our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and the worldwide fans of Eddie Van Halen. The world of music would not be at all the same without him, and he will most certainly be missed.

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