Remembering Guitar Hero Eddie Van Halen

Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, passed away Tuesday, October 6th, 2020 after a 20 year battle with cancer. He was 65 years old.

by Matt Munoz

Van Halen was born in the Netherlands in 1955 to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother. The family migrated to the United States in 1962, settling in Pasadena, CA.

photo by Josh McCool

An early disciple of Eric Clapton & Jimmy Page, Van Halen’s distinct two-handed finger taping style captivated a generation of guitarists and bands when his band’s debut album was released on Warner Brothers in 1978. The guitarist heralded in a new wave of technical guitar playing infused with drop tunings and a blistering tone known as the “Brown Sound”.

The original version of Van Halen included his brother Alex on drums, Michael Anthony on bass and vocals and the charismatic David Lee Roth as frontman. Sammy Hagar would join as their vocalist when Roth left the band, and preside over one of their most successful periods. Gary Cherone would join fro a brief period when Hagar departed. When the band returned from hiatus in 2003, both Hagar and Roth rejoined the band for world tours.

Cover art for Van Halen’s album “1984”

His Indonesian blood pulsated through his otherworldly combination of rhythm & trance-like riffs. Alex & Eddie were a brotherly Gamelan duo, an incredible flowering of west meets east-infusing an exotic communal sensibility into a stale Corvette & thick carpet FM world. Practice, innovation, perfection – EVH smiled & danced & sang when most ho-hum cooler-than-thou guitarists were content to just “shred” A brave artist; when things got tough with DLR he didn’t quit & go “solo”, he challenged his fans & forged a new path, making new hits that kept the world rocking. I never got to see the mighty VH live – a big regret! EVH 4 ever! ”In an email, former Austinite and current LA resident David Garza sums up what Van Halen meant to him. “EVH a true American immigrant hero.

Austinite & songwriter Matt the Electrician, who grew up in the Bay Area, had a similar love of hard rock. “I was middle school age and loved all these bands. One of my friends had an uncle who was the bass player in Dokken, and we got to see the other side of the business that way. Van Halen was at the top of that world. I was raised religious, and my mother would not let me buy the 1984 record due to an angel smoking on the cover. I did find a used cassette of the debut record and fell in love with it. Eddie was the master of that style of guitar playing. His strength was in his rhythm playing. As a writer he had great songs but also conveyed the playfulness of his spirit with that smile.”

Young Matt Munoz sporting his Van Halen t-shirt


Before I managed the Cactus Café, I was an awestruck kid who was able to see Van Halen at the height of their powers on the1980, 81 & 82 tours. As I got older, I saw the band many other times in the Sammy Hagar and reunion versions, and I worked at their home Warner Bros Records in Burbank for three years. The band, and Eddie, are part of my musical DNA.

Van Halen always had the essence of what a great song needs to move people; melody, hooks, great rhythm. And they had the lyrics of not one but three great vocalists. At the heart of their success was Eddie with that tone, flying jump kicks, and of course, that sly smile. Rest easy King Edward your work here is done.

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