Guitar Hero Eddie Van Halen Dies After Long Battle With Cancer

(MANDATORY CREDIT Ebet Roberts/Getty Images) UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Photo of Eddie VAN HALEN and VAN HALEN; Eddie Van Halen (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

Eddie Van Halen has died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California, with his wife, son and older brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, by his side. 

The doctors had discovered that cancer had travelled from the rocker’s throat to his brain and other organs. His devastated son broke the tragic news to fans on Twitter this morning.

Van Halen had been suffering from cancer for more than a decade. While he was a longtime chain smoker, he blamed his cancer onset on a metallic pick he often held in his mouth but the doctor refuted the theory. Over the last five years, he had been flying back and forth from America to Germany for radiation treatment. 

The legendary rockstar Eddie Van Halen was known as one of the most inventive and technically astute guitar players. He was considered to be one of the greatest guitar players of all time, his blinding speed, control and innovation propelled his band, Van Halen, into one of the most influential and successful bands in rock history.

Van Halen is among the top 20 best-selling artists of all time, and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. They dominated the hard rock scene in the 1970s and 1980s. Van Halen’s great success was his sixth album, 1984, in which Van Halen focused more on synthesizers than guitars, and hence his hit Jump was born. Rolling Stone magazine put Eddie Van Halen at No. 8 in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.

One of his most notable solos was featured in Michael Jackson’s hit Beat It. which he did as a favour for renowned producer Quincy Jones. Perhaps he will be best remembered for the techniques he mastered in the song “eruption” which featured tapping, tremolo picking and dive bombs, establishing him as the greatest guitar player since Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and BB King. 

His techniques are now commonplace in modern genres like alternative rock, metal and hard rock. 

“I did it as a favour”, Eddie later admitted about his surprise and blinding solo on the MJ classic Beat It. “I was a complete fool, according to the rest of the band, our manager and everyone else. I was not used to it. I knew what I was doing – I don’t do something unless I want to do it, he said at the time. 

Eddie Van Halen was a musical contradiction. He created a stunning array of sounds with a utility belt of fleet-fingered techniques that included two-handed tapping on the guitar neck like a piano, whammy bar sound effects that sounded like laughter or a spiralling aeroplane and harmonics thickened with distortion. He was also a great songwriter, producer and keyboard player.

“I don’t know s–t about scales or music theory,” he told Rolling Stone in 1980. “I don’t want to be seen as the fastest guitar in town, ready and willing to gun down the competition. All I know is that rock & roll guitar, like blues guitar, should be melody, speed, and taste, but more importantly, it should have emotion. I just want my guitar playing to make people feel something: happy, sad, even horny.”

Halen’s music has appeared in films as varied as Minions, Superbad and Sing as well as TV shows like Glee and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Video games such as Gran Turismo 4 and Guitar Hero have used his riffs. Their song Jamie’s Cryin was sampled by rapper Tone Loc in his hit Wild Thing.

Eddie Van Halen was born in Amsterdam and his family immigrated to California in 1962 when he was seven. His father was a big band clarinettist who rarely found work after coming to the U.S., and their mother was a maid who had dreams of her sons being classical pianists. The Van Halens shared a house with three other families. Eddie and Alex had only each other, a tight relationship that flowed through their music. Currently, he was survived by Janie, and his son Wolf.

Check out the Top ten essential song by rockstar Eddie Van Halen