If you've been on the internet or watched the news in the past couple days you already known that Eddie Van Halen has passed away at the age of 65 due to cancer. Eddie Van Halen was most widely revered by his peers for perfecting the technique of two-handed tapping on the guitar neck. This approach allowed him to add new textures, and percussive possibilities, to his instrument, while also making its six strings sound as expressive as a piano’s 88 keys or as changeable as a synthesizer. He received patents for three guitar devices he had created. In 2012, Guitar World Magazine ranked him No. 1 on its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
Eddie and his older brother, Alex, formed their first band in 1964, the Broken Combs, which became the Trojan Rubber Company. They formed a new group in 1972, calling themselves Genesis, even though there was already a British band by that name. They rented a sound system from David Lee Roth (happy birthday to him today), whom they eventually hired as their singer. Two years later, they recruited Michael Anthony on bass and changed their name first to Mammoth and then to Van Halen in 1974.
For the next three years,Van Halen played throughout Pasadena, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, in both clubs and hotel bars. Their repertoire covered everything from pop and rock to disco, but they eventually worked in their own original material. They had become the most popular local band in Los Angeles, and Eddie became well known for his groundbreaking technique. In 1977, Kiss' Gene Simmons financed a demo recording session for Van Halen after seeing them at the Starwood Club. On the strength of Simmons' recommendation, Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman signed Van Halen to Warner Bros., releasing the band's debut the following year.
Van Halen went on to sell more than 56 million albums in the United States alone. Ten of the band’s studio albums (some of which were cut with Sammy Hagar as lead singer during a long split with Mr. Roth) went multiplatinum. One sold more than six million copies (“5150” in 1986, featuring Mr. Hagar); another sold five million (“Van Halen II” in 1979); and two passed the 10 million mark to achieve “diamond” status (the band’s debut, “Van Halen,” in 1978, and “1984,” issued in you guessed it, 1984).
Eleven of the band’s studio albums reached the Top Five, and four snagged the top spot on Billboard’s Top 200. Van Halen amassed eight Billboard Top 20 singles, including its cover of Roy Orbison’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” which reached No. 12 in 1982, and “Jump,” which nabbed the No. 1 spot in 1984 and held it for five weeks. In 2007, the band (including both Mr. Roth and Mr. Hagar) was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The zest in Van Halen’s playing paired perfectly with the hedonistic songs and persona of his hard-rocking band, Van Halen, whose original lineup featured his brother Alex pummeling on drums, Michael Anthony on thunderous bass and the singer David Lee Roth, who presented a scene-stealing mix of Lothario, peacock and clown. Eddie Van Halen was the most influential guitarist of his generation and his band, Van Halen, one of the most popular rock acts of all time.