Of all of the celebratory photo galleries we’ve done of rockers, this one hits a bit different.
Eddie Van Halen was truly a one-of-a-kind musician, the type that only comes around every century or so. He possessed a knowledge and technique that made him comparable to the ingenious classical artists like Beethoven and Mozart. His demeanor was humble and cool, and he always had that huge smile on his face.
Van Halen was born on January 26, 1955 in Amsterdam. He learned the piano around the age of six, but it wasn’t until his family relocated to California the following decade that he became interested in rock ‘n’ roll.
“We came here, and all of a sudden here’s [Jimi] Hendrix and Cream, around ’68, and I said, ‘Fuck the piano, man! I don’t want to sit down. I want to stand up and get crazy!,'” the guitarist told Guitar Player Magazine.
And so, Van Halen and his older brother Alex, who played the drums, started a band called Mammoth. Van Halen was the singer as well as the guitarist — until they met another local vocalist named David Lee Roth. Once original bassist Mark Stone was replaced with Michael Anthony, Van Halen had a solidified lineup.
Their debut album took three weeks to record and is full of some of their most definitive tracks — “Eruption” was unlike anything anyone had heard before. The guitar virtuoso became famous for his tapping technique and was often seen playing with two hands on the fretboard.
The guitarist kept the band alive for over four decades and through various lineup changes, particularly when Sammy Hagar replaced Roth. They reunited in 2006 with Roth behind the microphone once again, and released their final studio album A Different Kind of Truth in 2012.
Van Halen died on Oct. 6, 2020 after a long battle with cancer. Rock and metal suffer losses all the time, but this one seemed to pause the music world a bit. Tributes were pouring in from all over, and it brought a sense of community that was refreshing after such a tumultuous year for everyone around the world.
We may never see another musician like Van Halen again in our lifetimes. He left a phenomenal legacy behind. Check out the gallery below to see photos of Van Halen through the years.
11 Iconic Eddie Van Halen Guitar Moments