Born in the Netherlands, formed in the United States; Eddie Van Halen, who died at the age of 65, was a rock god who never completely lost his connection with his native country.
Whenever he came to the Netherlands for a concert with his band Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, who died of throat cancer on Tuesday, had to speak Dutch on TV, whether it was with Harry Vermeegen, René Mioch or Jeroen van Inkel.
Then he had to show that he, Edward Lodewijk van Halen, rock god and guitar legend by profession, was still a bit ‘ours’. After all: born in Amsterdam, childhood spent in Nijmegen, son of Jan van Halen, musician of the Luchtmachtkapel. Just say “little country” or “rollmops”, then Holland was happy again.
Eddie was never too bad for it. His Dutch was good, excellent even for a man who immigrated to Pasadena, California in 1962 as a seven-year-old boy and became a naturalized American. In 1972 he founded the hard rock band with brother Alex, which in 1974 started using the family name: Van Halen.
With David Lee Roth as vocalist they conquered the world from 1978, sold over eighty million albums and thus became the most successful ‘Dutch’ rock stars ever, although the biggest hit Jump (number one in the US in 1984) remained in the Netherlands. rank 29th of the Top 40 stitches. Jump was an atypical Van Halen song, the peak of the group’s commercial phase, carried by synth punches instead of Eddie’s guitar work. In the Netherlands, Runnin ‘With The Devil (1978) was more successful: eighth place, when America had not yet realized that the self-titled debut album was a hard rock classic in the making.
That album also featured Eruption, a screeching instrumental piece in which Eddie introduced himself to the world as a guitar phenomenon.
Van Halen did not even score that many big hits, certainly outside the US, but the albums achieved astronomical sales figures: multiple US platinum for ten consecutive albums between 1978 and 1995. Four albums in a row became number one in the US album charts.
In the US, Van Halen is one of the twenty best-selling artists ever, with Roth, later Sammy Hagar and from 2007 Roth again as a singer.
Example for rock guitarists
As a guitarist, Eddie proved to be an example for generations of rock guitarists after him. He caused a sensation with lightning-fast arpeggios played with two hands on the guitar neck, a technique he hadn’t invented (he gave Steve Hackett of Genesis the credit) but gave a name: tapping. He could conjure up animal sounds from his guitar: the trumpeting of an elephant, the neighing of a horse. Eddie could do anything on his guitar.
In 1982, producer Quincy Jones was suddenly on the phone: whether he wanted to play a solo in a song by Michael Jackson. Van Halen thought he was being fooled, but that was not the case. And so he played (for free!) The solo that would become his most famous: the one in Jackson’s indestructible Beat It. According to tradition, Van Halen let his guitar screech so much that a monitor caught fire.
The readers of the American magazine Guitar World proclaimed him the best guitarist of all time in 2012, while he (like drummer Alex) had started on the piano and never learned to read notes. In 2007 Van Halen entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Injuries and accidents
Eddie has always had an impressive medical record, full of injuries and accidents he sustained on stage. Rehab treatments were soon added, due to addictions that continued to plague him until 2008. From 1999 onwards, the serious illnesses: the bowel disease diverticulitis and tongue cancer, right where the metal guitar pick that he clamped between his lips during performances rested on his tongue night after night.
He made a full recovery after surgery and was declared cancer-free in 2002, but he wouldn’t stay that way. Last year it became known that he had throat cancer for years. It was fatal to him on Tuesday in Santa Monica, after deteriorating rapidly in recent months. His wife Janie Liszewski (they married in 2008) and son Wolfgang (29), the third Van Halen in the family business as bass player since 2007, were with him.
“He was the best father I could have wished for,” Wolf said via Twitter. “Every moment I shared with him, whether on stage or not, was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I will ever fully recover from this loss. “