Eddie Van Halen, one of America’s last, true guitar heroes, died from throat cancer on Tuesday. He was 65.
“I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning,” his son Wolf wrote on Instagram, as the New York Post reported.
“On stage and off stage”
Van Halen passed after a long battle with throat cancer while surrounded by loved ones at the hospital, the Post reported.
“He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on stage and off stage was a gift,” his son, who is also the band’s bassist, said.
As the front-man of Van Halen, Eddie was behind some of the biggest rock staples of his era, from “Jump,” to “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher,” and “Running with the Devil.” He had a memorable guitar solo on the Michael Jackson rocker, “Beat It,” and a famous cover of the Kinks classic “You Really Got Me.”
It’s difficult to overstate Van Halen’s influence on generations of guitar players. A self-taught virtuoso, he helped popularize techniques like two-handed tapping, in which both hands are used to play notes rapidly on the neck, and his song “Eruption” is at the top of the guitar solo canon. According to the Wall Street Journal, it became a rite of passage for aspiring rock guitarists.
“I don’t know s**t about scales or music theory,” the musician told Rolling Stone in 1980, according to the New York Post.
A rock legend
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Van Halen lived the American dream, as he said himself. Born in the Netherlands, Van Halen moved to California as a child and was immersed in music from a young age, learning to play the piano before eventually picking up guitar, the Journal noted.
He formed what would eventually become one of the most successful rock bands ever with his brother Alex in 1972.
“Coming here with approximately $50 and a piano, and not being able to speak the language, going through everything to get where we are,” he once said. “If that’s not the American dream, I don’t know what is.”
Van Halen also picked up smoking at a young age and developed an alcohol problem later in life, according to the Journal. After being diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2000, he had part of his tongue removed. According to a friend of the family, Van Halen’s health fell into rapid decline during the last days of his life, People reported.
According to the New York Post, he leaves behind his son, his brother, and his wife, Janie.