Eddie Van Halen dies of cancer, according to son
LOS ANGELES - Eddie Van Halen, rock icon, legendary guitarist and co-founder of Van Halen, has died of cancer. He was 65.
His son, Wolfgang, posted a tribute to the musician to social media on Tuesday.
“I can’t believe I’m having to write this,” he wrote. “But my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning.”
Former bandmate Sammy Hagar shared a photo of the two on Twitter.
"Heartbroken and speechless. My love to the family," Hagar wrote.
According to FOX News, Van Halen had been battling throat cancer since he was first diagnosed in 2000.
In 2015, Billboard magazine reported Van Halen had tongue cancer, which migrated into his esophagus. Consequently, one-third of his tongue had to be surgically removed. The surgery “slightly” affected his speech, but it didn’t stop him from touring at the time.
Van Halen was best known for his expert use of the electric guitar. His iconic string-bending sound and use of classical styling gave his 1980s heavy metal band a timeless sound.
Eddie Van Halen was something of a musical contradiction. He was an autodidact who could play almost any instrument, but he couldn’t read music. He was a classically trained pianist who also created some of the most distinctive guitar riffs in rock history. He was a Dutch immigrant who was considered one of the greatest American guitarists of his generation.
Van Halen formed the eponymous rock group with his younger brother Alex, bassist Michael Anthony and lead singer David Lee Roth. Various members would cycle in and out of the band, including later members Hagar and Eddie’s son Wolfgang.
The bands' original musicians were members of rival high school bands and then attended Pasadena City College together. They combined to form the band Mammoth, but then changed to Van Halen after discovering there was another band called Mammoth.
Eddie and his brother Alex first moved to the United States in the 1960s. Both classically trained musicians eventually produced a demo by Kiss’ Gene Simmons, which led to a breakout success with the release of their debut album, “Van Halen” in 1978.
“Van Halen” opened with a blistering “Runnin’ With the Devil” and then Eddie Van Halen showed off his astonishing skills in the next song, “Eruption,” a furious 1:42 minute guitar solo that swoops and soars like a deranged bird. The album also contained a cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love.”
CHULA VISTA, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: Guitarist Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen performs on stage at Sleep Train Amphitheatre on September 30, 2015 in Chula Vista, California. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)
Simmons took to Twitter to express heartbreak for the loss of one of rock's greatest guitarists.
"Eddie was not only a Guitar God, but a genuinely beautiful soul," Simmons wrote.
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam told Rolling Stone magazine that listening to Van Halen’s “Eruption” was like hearing Mozart for the first time. “He gets sounds that aren’t necessarily guitar sounds — a lot of harmonics, textures that happen just because of how he picks.”
Van Halen released albums on a yearly timetable — “Van Halen II” (1979), “Women and Children First” (1980), “Fair Warning” (1981) and “Diver Down” (1982) — until the monumental “1984,” which hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album charts (only behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”). Rolling Stone ranked “1984” No. 81 on its list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s.
“Eddie put the smile back in rock guitar, at a time when it was all getting a bit brooding. He also scared the hell out of a million guitarists around the world, because he was so damn good. And original,” Joe Satriani, a fellow virtuoso, told Billboard in 2015.
Van Halen is among the top 20 best-selling artists of all time, and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Rolling Stone magazine put Eddie Van Halen at No. 8 in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.