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Reflections: Eddie Van Halen

The death of Eddie Van Halen sent shockwaves around the world. In my lifetime there have been several musicians who have passed away that have had that time of a shock effect: Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, and Prince are the names that come to mind. From a personal standpoint, I’ll add Michael Hutchence’s death in 1997 (as I am a huge INXS fan). The passing of Eddie certainly falls into the category “shock effect”.  While it’s clear, Eddie had been sick for sometime, his passing still has come as a shock to many. To many of us, I think we felt Eddie had beat cancer once – and he would find a way to beat it again

When I look at Presley, Lennon, Jackson, and Prince – all four were essentially solo artists when they passed. When Michael Hutchence died it was a different story as he was the frontman for INXS. Hutchence’s passing iessentially ended the band INXS as we knew it. While Eddie wasn’t the lead singer of Van Halen, he certainly was the heart and soul of the band. As a result, the death of Eddie Van Halen is essentially ending the 42+ year run of Van Halen.

Many knew early on how great Eddie Van Halen would be from the first first album, Van Halen’s self-titled Van Halen album. We listened to Eddie jam out throughout that album, but somehow we knew Eddie’s guitar solo “Eruption” would have him destined for greatness.

It was in the early 1980s, where Eddie Van Halen became a Rock and Roll Superstar. Eddie would perform another epic guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s worldwide hit “Beat It” from Jackson’s 1982 “Thriller” album. A year later, Van Halen would release the “1984” album, and they would have their #1 hit, “Jump”. On “Jump”, it’s perhaps Eddie’s keyboard playing that is long remembered.

As a Rock and Roll Superstar, it put Eddie under the spotlight – and it didn’t take long for Eddie’s life to take on a soap opera quality. There was Valerie Bertinelli the “sweet actress” who would marry Eddie Van Halen the “bad boy”. They would have a son Wolfgang (a.k.a “Wolfie”), who eventually would follow Eddie’s footsteps in the music business, and eventually a part of Van Halen.  Eddie and Valerie’s marriage would dissolve when in the mid 2000s and their divorce was finalized in 2007. There are those Rock and Roll fans who would never admit to watching a TV soap opera, but when it came to Eddie’s virtual soap opera, many of them would tune in.

When it came to family, Eddie was loyal – and this was seen with his relationship with older brother Alex Van Halen – the drummer for Van Halen. It was also seen with Wolfie who joined the band in 2007. On the other hand, there were the band feuds – and Eddie always seemed to be at the center of it. There were the feuds with David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, and Michael Anthony – all public and adding to the virtual soap opera that became known as the Eddie Van Halen story.

Then there was the drugs – which supposedly led to his divorce. It would lead to stint in rehab, and ultimately it is believed to be the reason when Van Halen got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that Eddie was not there.

2020 has been a very difficult year in terms of people in the music industry who have passed away. The year started off with Neil Peart, the drummer from Rush who had passed away. Much like Eddie had a 40 year career with Van Halen and rose the top of his game when it came to guitar, Peart had a 40+ year career with Rush and rose to the top of his game on drums. At the same time, there were contrasts. Peart didn’t leave the soap opera life like Eddie; and at the time of Peart’s death, Rush had pretty much moved into a retirement phase. With Eddie, during the final year, he did move into more of a secluded type of life, but Van Halen had never disbanded.

INXS struggled to go on following Michael Hutchence’s death. It doesn’t look like Rush will try to regroup without Peart. There will be questions in the next few months on Van Halen and its future, but for this author I think any future involving present or past Van Halen members needs to be something else besides Van Halen.

Image Usage: CC BY-SA 4.0

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