A Tribute to Eddie Van Halen

Photo taken in 2016 by Aneau-Nyme for WikiCommons

Growing up in rural Minnesota,  we had our own taste for music. Many of us loved listening to bass and rap music, with the car stereo blasting in the backseat making the back windows rattle. Other people prefer organ music in the church where the music would bring Jesus Christ down to Earth with the guitar to smack the player across the head with it. Some love singing and playing to the likes of Bach and Beethoven, with ballet dancers twirling across the stage.  We were a region with multi-cultural talents and tolerated each others‘ taste of music.

Then there is heavy metal. If there is one person that comes to mind at first, it’s Eddie Van Halen. The first song, which should also be a title song for a TV show: Hot for Teacher.

Born in 1955 in the Netherlands, Eddie, together with his older brother Alex, started their music career in California in 1972, but their major breakthrough came with the creation of the rock music group Van Halen in 1974, with David Lee Roth as lead singer and Mark Stone as bass. Their first album was released in 1978 and with Roth at the helm, the band had released seven albums including ist last one in 2012. Roth left the band in 1985 and was replaced with Sammy Hagar. Under Hagar, four more albums were released before he left in 1996. Gary Cherome was with the band for two years and only one album was produced. Despite the changes in lead singers, the band remained in tact.

Unique about Eddie was his signature music style with the electric guitar, known as tapping. Invented by Steve Hackett, Eddie innovated the technique which uses both hands on the neck of the guitar. It includes the use of the flip-out support device which he invented and patented. Eddie was also an inventor on three patents related to guitars: a folding prop to support a guitar in a flat position a tension-adjusting tailpiece, and an ornamental design for a headstock, all of which were useful for his continued innovation of the tapping technique. Here are some samples of his signature techniques:

Together with his brother’s use of the brown sound with the use of the snare drums and other percussion, Eddie’s techniques made for some spectacular pieces which put him into the top 10 of best guitarist and Van Halen into the top 10 of the best American rock music bands of all time. Here are my top ten pieces performed by Eddie:

If one wants a good dose of wake-up and go that has nothing to do with caffine, one should listen to Eddie. He was a great source of inspiration for all guitarists and rock music bands both in the US and internationally. It helped Angus Young from AC-DC create his own signature style of play. It helped bands like Metallica and KISS, as well as singers like  Michael Jackson and LL Cool J enrich their careers and their talents. It was also a focus of several movies where he was featured even in cameo.  If there was one word to describe Eddie, it is that he was the Innovator of Heavy Metal, one who will be in the books, even as the band Van Halen has been inducted into the Hall of Fame since 2007.

Sadly, like the day music died in 1959 with the deaths of Buddy HollyRitchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson in a plane crash just outside Clear Lake, Iowa, yesterday, October 6th 2020 was the day that heavy metal music died. Eddie Van Halen succumbed to throat cancer. He was 65 and is survived by his brother Alex, his son bassist Wolfgang (with his first wife, Valerie Bertinelli) as well as his second wife, Janie (Liszewski). Eddie was a legend of his time and a source of inspiration for all musicians, yet his style will never be replaced. I enjoyed listening to Van Halen during my youth and despite some frowns and heckles from the rap and bassist music lovers. I can say that if there is one person who really did innovate the way we create and produce musical pieces, Eddie would be on top of the list. No matter what kind of music genre is played, there would be an innovator like Eddie that could spice it up and make the piece great to listen to. He will forever be remembered for his works and his music shall play on for generations to come.

I highly doubt heavy metal will ever be the same. Rock on Eddie, wherever you are.