On the passing of Eddie Van Halen: Reinventor of the guitar and hard rock

From real-life straight into the history books – last month one of the all-time great guitar players in rock history Eddie Van Halen has died. Second to only Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen was undoubtedly one of the most influential, original, and talented rock guitarists of the 20th century. As a musician who reinvented the guitar, he was known for tapping guitar solo technique, using both left and right hands on the guitar neck, and allowing rapid arpeggios to be played with two hands on the fretboard. Although he popularized tapping, he did not invent the technique, which had been used by flamenco guitarists, as well as Western virtuosos like Paganini. In the year 1972, he and his brother founded the American rock band “Van Halen” in which Eddie was the main songwriter and lead guitarist. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band was credited with restoring hard rock to the forefront of the music scene.
In his childhood, as a music enthusiast, Eddie had never been able to read sheet music; instead, he learned from watching and listening, and he would improvise. Even though his parents had hoped for him to become pianists, but Eddie liked rock music much better. With the main influences as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, he started his own path by founding the band „Van Halen“. Its debut was commercially successful and by the early 1980s, Van Halen was one of the most successful rock acts of the time, making five-times platinum albums, number-one pop hits, and Grammy nominations. VH1 ranked the band seventh on a list of the top 100 hard rock artists of all time. Eddie engaged in solo work and partnerships on film soundtracks as well as musical collaborations with other musicians of the time.
Since receiving wide acclaim for his guitar playing technique (his instrumental solo “Eruption” was voted number 2 in Guitar World’s readers poll of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos”), Eddie Van Halen was also an inventor on three patents related to guitars: a folding prop to support a guitar in a flat position, a tension-adjusting tailpiece, and an ornamental design for a headstock. Until 2005 Van Halen held a patent for a flip-out support device that attaches to the rear of the electric guitar. This device enables the user to employ the tapping technique by playing the guitar in a manner similar to the piano with the face of the guitar-oriented upward instead of forward. In 2004 Eddie started a relationship with Fender to begin the development of the EVH products and brand. Three years later the first EVH branded amplifiers were produced by Fender, followed shortly after by a limited-edition “Frankenstrat” inspired guitar. The brand has since expanded to include many different models and styles of guitars and amplifiers.
In an interview with Guitar World in 2008, Eddie said, that he’ll be making music ’til the day he die. That prophecy came true since he was an active musician for 70 years. Throughout his life, the musician had many health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, and several stage injuries, but throughout all these times he stayed very active as a guitarist and songwriter. Van Halen was hospitalized in the year 2019 after battling throat cancer over the previous five years. Even in May 2020 people were having hopes for the band‘s „Van Halen“ future. Hagar indicated in a recent interview that he believed otherwise claiming “Until Ed or Alex Van Halen die, the band is not finished.“ Despite it all, Eddie Van Halen died from the illness at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California on October 6, 2020, at the age of 65. His death came just ten days after original Van Halen bassist Mark Stone died of cancer. The passing of a legend puts the future of the band in further uncertainty.

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