Legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen has passed away following a battle with throat cancer. The news was confirmed today by his son Wolf Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen was 65 years old.
Eddie’s influence with his instrument is hard to encapsulate – his name is nearly synonymous with “guitar solo.” Eddie and his brother Alex Van Halen were born in Amsterdam, the sons to classical musician Jan van Halen, before moving to Pasadena, Calif. with their family in the 1960s. The Van Halen brothers followed their father’s proclivity toward music, starting bands together as early as 1964 before finally solidifying their group in 1974 and formalizing themselves under the banner of Van Halen.
Two years later in 1976, Van Halen the band would record a demo, produced by Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons. The next year the group would sign to Warner Bros. Records and in 1978 released their self-titled debut. Van Halen includes some of the band’s most iconic works, including “Runnin’ With The Devil,” their cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” and Eddie’s guitar solo opus “Eruption.” While the record peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard charts, the album would become a touchstone for heavy metal and would later be certified diamond by the RIAA.
Van Halen marked the beginning of a storied career, followed up with the bombastic and influential works like Van Halen II and 1984. While the band underwent many notable and public lineup changes, Eddie and his brother remained the two consistent members throughout the band’s nearly five decades of existence. At the crux of it was Eddie’s penchant for flash guitar solos with remarkable speed, fretboard tapping, and fiery ingenuity. His prowess made him sought after in the industry, performing on Michael Jackson’s smash-hit “Beat It” and collaborating with everyone from Queen’s Brian May and members of Black Sabbath to LL Cool J and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.
Undoubtedly one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century, Eddie brought a new perspective on what the electric guitar could do and awe-inspiring riffs that are still rattling in our ears today. Join us in remembering his life and revisiting some of our favorite Van Halen moments below.