Artist News Obituaries

Eddie Van Halen dies

By | Published on Wednesday 7 October 2020

Van Halen

Legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen has died, following several years of cancer treatment. He was 65.

“I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning”, his son Wolfgang Van Halen wrote in a statement yesterday. “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss”.

Eddie’s ex-wife and Wolfgang’s mother, Valerie Bertinelli, added in her own statement: “40 years ago my life changed forever when I met you. You gave me the one true light in my life, our son, Wolfgang. Through all your challenging treatments for lung cancer, you kept your gorgeous spirit and that impish grin. I’m so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments. I will see you in our next life my love”.

Born in the Netherlands in 1955, Van Halen moved to the US with his family in 1962. A talented pianist as a child, he later began playing drums, while his older brother Alex took up the guitar. However, they soon switched instruments, beginning a partnership that would continue throughout their lives.

The brothers formed their first band, called The Broken Combs, in 1964. Eight years later, in 1972, they formed what would become Van Halen.

After going through various line-up changes and names, the brothers adopted their surname as the band’s moniker – resisting a suggestion by Kiss’s Gene Simmons, who produced and financed a demo tape in 1977, to change it to Daddy Longlegs. Simmons also took the demo tape to his management company, who dismissed it, saying that the band had no chance of success.

A few months later, they signed to Warner Bros Records, releasing their debut album, ‘Van Halen’, in 1978. Featuring singles ‘Runnin With The Devil’ and a cover of The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, that debut LP went on to become one of the biggest selling albums of the 1970s in the US.

The band enjoyed continued success throughout their career, with all of their subsequent eleven albums going top ten in the US charts – including four number ones.

Despite a number of line-up changes – most notably a switch in vocalists from David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar (and then subsequently back again) – Eddie and Alex Van Halen remained the core of the group throughout. Eddie’s son Wolfgang became a member in 2006 in time for the reunion with Roth the following year.

Over the last two decades, Eddie Van Halen underwent numerous cancer treatments. Initially, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2000 – blaming this on holding metal guitar picks in his mouth while performing his signature ‘tapping’ guitar solos. He was given the all-clear in 2002, after having a third of his tongue removed. But last year it was revealed that he had been receiving cancer treatment again since 2014.

As well as working with his own band, Van Halen worked with various other musicians, including Michael Jackson, Brian May, LL Cool J and Black Sabbath.