Some of the biggest headlines this month have been about the unfortunate passing of rock legend Eddie Lodewijk Van Halen, who died at the age of 65 on October 6th from a long battle with throat cancer.
The death of the legendary guitarist and co-founder of the band Van Halen represents a huge loss for the world as he was one of the greatest musical icons to ever live. Often compared to other celebrated talents like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page, Van Halen was considered a true guitar hero.
“My husband, my love, my Peep. My heart and soul have been shattered into a million pieces. I never knew it was possible to cry so many tears or feel such incredible sadness,” wrote Van Halen’s widow Janie on Instagram the day after his death. “Saying goodbye is the hardest thing I have ever had to do so instead I say so long, I will see you again soon in a place with no pain or sorrow.”
“I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss. I love you so much, Pop,” wrote Van Halen’s son Wolfgang William Van Halen on Twitter.
Wolfgang, 29, is a musician himself and is the bassist for Van Halen, having replaced Michael Anthony back in 2006. The band had recently been comprised of Eddie, his brother Alex, his son Wolf and David Lee Roth.
Fans around the world have been scrambling to download Van Halen’s music after learning about his passing. Van Halen was often looked at as a guitar God for the boomer generation and they grew up blasting his songs in their Pontiac Firebirds and Ford Mustangs decades ago.
In the days following his death, streams of the band that Van Halen had helped give a name to, have been surging over 1,000% in the U.S. according to initial reports from Nielsen Music/MRC Data (via Billboard). Data showed that the band’s collected songs earned 31.19 million streams from October 6-7, which was up 1,369% compared to 2.12 million clicks on October 4-5.
Van Halen’s self-titled debut from 1978 ranks 27th on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time. Their album 1984 which features big hits like “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher,” is ranked 114 on Rolling Stone’s Top 200 Albums Chart. From October 5-6, streams for the albums Van Halen and 1984 soared 900% and 360%, respectively, while sales leaped 7,650% and 9,235%, according to Alpha Data.
Born in the Netherlands in 1955, Eddie and his older brother Alex came from a musical family. Their father played saxophone and clarinet professionally and had both boys trained in classical piano from a young age. This would greatly influence Eddie’s guitar playing in the future.
He revolutionized the way the electric guitar is played and created a whole new sound for rock, one that was loud and distorted but also clear and focused. He was also known for his two-handed tapping technique and for bringing the virtuosic rock guitar solo into the mainstream in the late 1970s and 1980s. Older fans of the band can attest to the raw and exciting energy that Van Halen exhibited when he played guitar at their live shows.
It was in 2015 that Rolling Stone declared Van Halen as number eight on a list of the world’s greatest guitarists of all time. The lead guitarist also spent much of his career helping to designing new instruments and collaborating with makers like Music Man, Charvel, and Fender.
Since his death, many musicians have paid tribute to the legend including Ozzy Osbourne and Pete Townshend. “He made it look like it was not difficult. He made it look like it was a natural thing. Everybody else was trying to be Eddie Van Halen, but there is only one Eddie Van Halen,” Osbourne wrote in Rolling Stone. “I thought he was brilliant. God only knows what you have to do to get that good.”
“I was once asked by Michael Jackson to play electric guitar on the Thriller album,” Townshend told Rolling Stone. “I said I couldn’t do it but recommended Eddie who called and we chatted. He was utterly charming, happy about the connection, but told me how much he was enjoying playing keyboards. His smile was just classic. A man in his rightful place, so happy to be doing what he did.”
“It’s completely tragic that we have lost him,” added Townsend. “He was not just an innovative and stylish player with great taste, he was also a laidback virtuoso showman who just blew us all away every time. Every shredder today has lost their Master Teacher and Guide.”