On October 6, we lost one of the most influential guitarists in rock history: Eddie Van Halen. He was 65 and his cause of death was due to lung cancer.
Eddie was classically trained to be a classical piano player with his brother Alex Van Halen. Against their parent’s expectations, Eddie and Alex preferred rock. It was Alex who played guitar at first with Eddie on the drums. However, after hearing Alex’s drum solo from the Surfaris’ song “Wipe Out,” Eddie decided that Alex have the drums with Eddie learning how to play the electric guitar.
In 1972, Alex and Eddie formed the band Genesis with Alex on drums, Eddie on guitar/singer, and Mark Stone on bass. A man called David Lee Roth rented to them a sound system. Instead of paying rent (and save money), the band hired Roth as lead vocals. Bassist Stone was replaced by Michael Anthony in 1974 after an all-night jam.
By this time, the band had to change their name since Genesis was used already; at first, the band used the name Mammoth but Roth suggested using Van Halen instead as it sounded like power. After working in the mid-70s and making a name for themselves in Los Angeles, Van Halen attracted Warner Bros. Records and started recording their debut album Van Halen in 1977. The album was released in February 1978.
The rest is history. Van Halen became one of the most influential rock bands of all time. Eddie popularized the tapping technique of playing guitar solos. At first, he hid this from the public’s eyes during concerts in fear of someone stealing his technique. However, tapping was used over one hundred years ago; Paganini used this as well. After some time though, Eddie decided to let his “secret” out.
Eddie also saved lots of money by making his own guitars instead of buying them. His masterpiece was the Frankenstrat, a guitar made from other guitar parts. He then made several variants that became famous in their own right.
Eddie’s legacy can still be heard today, as tapping is now common today. However, no one can replicate the fingers of one Eddie Van Halen.