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Eddie Van Halen

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Eddie Van Halen (1955-2020): a Musician from Amsterdam, Netherlands.

E

dward Lodewijk Van Halen (January 26, 1955 - October 6, 2020) was an American musician and songwriter. He was the main songwriter and guitarist of the American rock band Van Halen, which he co-founded in 1972 with his brother Alex Van Halen (drums), Mark Stone (bass) and David Lee Roth (vocals). He is regarded as one of the all-time greatest guitar players in rock history and was well known for popularizing the tapping guitar solo technique, allowing rapid arpeggios to be played with two hands on the fretboard.

Born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was a son of Jan Van Halen and Eugenia (née van Beers). Jan was a Dutch jazz pianist, clarinetist and saxophonist, while Eugenia was an Indo (Eurasian) from Rangkasbitung on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies. The family eventually settled in Nijmegen, Netherlands where they were treated poorly because of their mixed-raced relationship.

In 1962, the Van Halen family fled the racist environment of the Netherlands to the United States, settling in Pasadena, California where due to their lack of English they fared little better than back home. In spite of the discrimination, the brothers eventually became naturalized U.S. citizens. They learned to play the piano as children starting at the age of six. They commuted from Pasadena to San Pedro to study with an elderly piano teacher, Stasys Kalvaitis.

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Eddie Van Halen was never taught to read music. He learned by watching recitals of Bach or Mozart and improvise. Between 1964 and 1967 he won first place in the annual piano competition held at Long Beach City College. Despite their parents wanting the boys to be classical pianists, the brothers gravitated towards rock. Greatly influenced by British Invasion bands The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five. When his brother began playing the guitar, Eddie bought a drum kit for himself; however, after he heard his brother's performance of the Surfaris' drum solo from Wipe Out, he gave Alex the drums and began learning how to play the electric guitar.

Eddie and his brother Alex formed their first band with three other boys, calling themselves The Broken Combs, performing at Hamilton Elementary School in Pasadena, when he was in the fourth grade. He would later cite this performance as key to his desire to become a professional musician.

The brothers then started a band in 1972 but two years later, the band changed its name to Van Halen and, at the same time, became a staple of the Los Angeles music scene while playing at well-known clubs like the Whisky a Go Go. In 1977, 'Warner Records' offered the band a recording contract. The band's 1978 debut reached number 19 on the Billboard pop music charts, becoming one of rock's most commercially successful debuts. Eddie would remain in the Van Halen band until his death in 2020.

In the background, Eddie Van Halen engaged in several projects outside of his eponymous band, including solo work and partnerships with his brother on film soundtracks like The Wild Life, Twister and Sacred Sin) as well as musical collaborations with Gene Simmons of Kiss, singer/songwriter Nicolette Larson, Queen guitarist Brian May, Sammy Hagar (who would eventually become a member of Van Halen), Black Sabbath, Roger Waters, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, and LL Cool J. In 1982, he contributed the guitar solo to Beat It, for Michael Jackson's Thriller album, am album that became the biggest selling album of all time. In addition, Van Halen made cameo appearances in the music video for Frank Sinatra's L.A. Is My Lady, an episode of Café Americain starring his then-wife Valerie Bertinelli, and an episode of the television show Two and a Half Men.

Eddie Van Halen was also an inventor by being awarded three patents related to guitars:

  • A folding prop to support a guitar in a flat position
  • A tension-adjusting tailpiece
  • And an ornamental design for a headstock.
In February 2017, Eddie Van Halen donated 75 guitars from his personal collection to Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, a program that provides musical instruments to students in low-income schools.

Despite survive lung and throat cancer, Eddie Van Halen would die of a stroke at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California on October 6, 2020.


Footnote: Since Eddie Van Halen did not record as a solo artist (preferring his self-named band) there are no discography entries for the article, please see the article on Van Halen for listings.

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Nation Netherlands
City Amsterdam
Genre Musician
Formations 1
Active Years 1955-2020
Last Modified 2022-09-10
Diskery ID 2143


Artists Linked to Eddie Van Halen

Black Sabbath Kiss Michael Jackson
Queen The Beatles Van Halen


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