At 65, Eddie had given all to music; a craft he had come to love so deeply and share so passionately. His innovative fingerings and razzle-dazzle electric guitar techniques stamped his name as one of the most electrifying and, perhaps, influential guitarists of all time. There is no wonder his band, Van Halen became one of the world’s biggest rock acts in no time.
Many called him the King of the Strings, others will forever remember how he transformed Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” by adding a guitar break. Whatever it is, that is all we now have; memories. With three patents under his belt, perfecting the two-handed tapping technique, and ranking number one on Guitar World Magazine’s list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time”, Van Halen certainly made rock guitar exciting again.
When I heard the news of Eddie Van Halen’s death, my first reaction was a cringe; a mental question of how much worse the year can be. I grew up listening to songs like “Rupture”, “Panama” and “Runnin’ with the Devil”. Eddie took his last breath in the late hours of Tuesday, an incident that sent shock waves across the music scene, as tributes continue to roll in.
Eddie’s electrifying double-tap magic and wild-fire disposition often combined effortlessly with the flamboyance and theatricality of the livewire singer, David Lee Roth. I was a young girl, just beginning to appreciate the beauty and magic of music, and Van Halen showed me the strings. He made it easy for me to fall in love with music.
His musical career, spanning almost 50 years, has come to an end after a protracted battle with cancer. Eddie bows out of the scene with his shoulders high. He is gone, but his music will live on forever. But beyond that, his ex-wife Vallerie Bertinelli says the world has lost not just a fine musician, but an amazing soul. Throughout his career, Eddie raked up quite a number of achievements.
The German-American nicknamed ‘Virtuoso of the Rock Guitar’ among many fans and industry players, formed the band Van Halen in 1972; a group that would go on to sell 56 million albums in the US alone. Their debut album, Van Halen released in 1978 sold more than 10 million copies to be tagged “diamond”. An album by the same title in 1984 also surpassed the 10 million mark, with many more registering multiplatinum figures, selling well beyond 6 million copies.
Their fame went through the roof in the late 1970s and early 80s, culminating in a number of recognition and awards. In 1984, Jump won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Stage Performance. More followed in the subsequent years, culminating in 1992 where songs like Unlawful Carnal Knowledge clinched several prizes including a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance and the American Music Award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album.
That same year, the band would go on to clinch several other awards with songs like “Right Now” taking home three MTV Video Music Awards for Best Editing, Best Direction, and Video of the Year.
Born Edward Lodewijk Van Halen in 1955, he was only 7 when his migrant parents moved to California in 1962, where he and his brother, Alex would go on to take solace in music in a strange land with a strange language. The rest, as they say is, history, and history will certainly celebrate the man whom the New York Times remembers for his “hyperactive and athletic runs and solos”.
Indeed, the world mourns. Even the self-acclaimed Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne tweeted; “EddieVanHalen was one of the nicest guys I ever worked with and we shared so many laughs together. His influence on music and especially the guitar has been immeasurable. He was an absolute legend. Eddie, I’ll see you on the other side, my friend. Love, Ozzy”.
Many other tributes have continued to pour in for a man who is largely known as the modern Mozart. The loss is felt across the globe, from America and Europe to India and the rest of Asia. Many from the Indian film fraternity have taken to twitter to express their deep sadness.
Musician Vishal Dadlani shared how Eddie played a key role in his childhood as he learnt about music.
Vishal, in his post, shared a photograph of Eddie from a concert. He tweets, “A world without @eddievanhalen. Wow,” as he remembered the first time he heard Eddie’s guitar and shared how he found his own sound, thanks to the legendary guitarist.
“I’ll always remember the first time I heard his guitar on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. I was 11, I think. Until then, I had the music that my parents listened to. The moment EVH kicked in on that song, I had found MY music for the first time,” he wrote in his caption.
Northeast India region is known for its inclination towards Western music. Eddies’s death has seen many of them send in heart-touching tributes. We spoke to popular musicians like Priyanku Bordoloi, lead guitarist with The Karma Project and Zubeen Garg; Ambar Das, sing-songwriter, composer and percussionist; as well as guitarist and sing-songwriter of Soulmate band Rudy Wallang who could not fathom how much the world would miss Eddie.
Bordoloi has this to say: “I grew up listening to legendary guitar players and bands, but between them Eddie Van Halen was amazing, especially with the tapping technique he developed. He is gone today which is a huge loss for the western music scene. From the bottom of my heart. I thank the legend for inspiring me and so many guitar players and musician. May his soul rest in peace.”
For Das, Eddie Van Halen has been a huge influence on his music. “He was a multifaceted musician who has contributed immensely to rock guitar playing. Songs like Jump and Panama were anthems of sort for any Rock band. Legends like Eddie have built a solid foundation on which Rock music today rests. May he keep rocking in peace.”
Wallang has a rather emotional message about Van Halen’s death: “Eddie’s death is a big loss to the guitar world. When he first ‘Erupted’ on the scene back in 77/78 with Van Halen, I never dreamed that a guitar could ever sound like that! His influence can be heard all over the Rock guitar world and will never ever go away!”
The year 2020 will be remembered as the year humanity’s resolve has been tested and stretched to the limits. Eddie Van Halen’s death comes as another sad news. As the world mourns, we should celebrate the life he lived, the lives he touched, the legacy he left behind, and the sound he created.