Remembering Eddie Van Halen: A Rock Star Prodigy

A retrospective of the rock icon

Illustration: April Kinney • The Sentry
The legacy of rock music legend. 

This has been a harsh year for many, and unfortunately this doesn’t exclude celebrity losses. On Oct. 6, the legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen passed away from cancer at 65 years old. Rock and metal music fans are shocked and saddened by his passing, and many members of the heavy music community have paid their respects. Although his physical being has passed, his legacy will remain and forever imprint on the music world.

Eddie Van Halen was born in the Netherlands and is of Dutch and Indonesian descent. He and his family moved to America in 1962. Both of his parents were musicians, so Eddie and his brother Alex started taking piano lessons at six years old, and they soon began to venture out to other instruments. Originally, Eddie played the drums and Alex played guitar, but later on they switched and never looked back.

The brothers first formed their band in 1972, and they quickly became a hit with rock and metal fans nationwide. One of the things that made Van Halen stand out was Eddie’s jaw-dropping guitar skills. It is widely believed that Eddie Van Halen popularized the “tapping” technique, a guitar solo practice in which the player performs rapid arpeggios with both hands on the fretboard. He is also known for his “Frankenstrat,” a DIY’d guitar that he put together with different brands and parts to fine-tune his unique sounds. Van Halen also has their own brand of amplifiers, and Eddie has endorsed several guitar and amp brands in the past. Some of the more popular brands he has endorsed include Kramer, Peavey, Fender, and Ernie Ball strings.

Eddie’s musicianship extended far beyond Van Halen alone. He had an iconic guitar solo in Michael Jackson’s hit “Beat It” and has collaborated with other icons such as KISS, David Lee Roth (who used to be in the band), Black Sabbath, and Sammy Hagar. His name was known not only in the underground rock and metal community, but in the mainstream pop community as well. Van Halen’s songs defined a generation of music fans with hits such as “Hot for Teacher,” “Jump,” and “Runnin’ With the Devil.”

Their single “Jump” snagged a Grammy nomination in 1984, and in 1992, the rock band won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocals for their album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and Eddie specifically was given accolades for his guitar skills—a constant focal point of Van Halen’s performances.

Eddie Van Halen is remembered by friends and family as kind, loving and talented. In an Instagram post, his son Wolfgang comments, “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift,” alongside several photos of him and his father during childhood.

Eddie Van Halen was a remarkable person, and his musicianship and personality were a gift to all. Fans are allowing his family and close friends privacy to grieve during this time.

This is a selection from the Oct. 28 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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