The death of Eddie Van Halen was a sad day in the rock and roll world.
After a long, severe battle with various health issues in his latter years, including late-stage throat and lung cancer, the guitar-god passed away from a stroke this past October at the age of 65.
The American rock band Van Halen began in 1974 with members including the guitarist Eddie, drummer and brother Alex Van Halen, lead singer David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony. The band was revered for their energetic live performances and glam-metal-meets-hard-rock style.
Some of their best known songs include “Jump” as well as their cover of The Kinks hit “You Really Got Me.” The thunderous solo known as “Eruption” also established Van Halen as a prodigy of electric guitar and became a staple for many Van Halen shows.
They were legendary. They were badasses.
Various landmarks in Pasadena, C.A., where Van Halen grew up, were memorialized in his tribute so fans could pay their respects. He was best remembered as an innovator in the art of guitar playing. Though he did not invent it, Eddie popularized the “tapping” technique on his beast known as the “Frankenstrat.”
“I was about five the first time I listened to ‘Panama,’” Junior Communications major Tyler Light said. His father introduced him to the band’s music at an early age. Light also enjoyed Van Halen’s work and overall upbeat vibe on the song “Summer Nights” from the 5150 album.
“It’s hard to pick a favorite Van Halen song,” SUNY Plattsburgh music graduate Zach Young said. “But it has to be David Lee Roth singing.”
Young plays guitar and even covered the 1984 hit “Hot For Teacher” for the college guitar ensemble one semester. He also dabbles in bass and drums.
“The intro, by itself, with the guitar alone has some high points and then it gets low,” Light said. “The way he plays it is just so flexible, groovy and colorful.”
Van Halen’s range is inevitably magnetic and pulls listeners in from the get-go on tunes like this one.
Light has watched various Van Halen concerts online before and describes Van Halen’s chill demeanor as one of the aspects that caught his eye.
“He would just grab his guitar, sit on the end of the stage and just play all relaxed,” Light said. “A lot of people don’t understand how much energy that takes and how much motivation is required to pull something off like that.”
It’s certainly not easy to get on stage and play a three hour show with little to no breaks.
“Eddie Van Halen completely changed the way people played guitar,” Young said. His influence can be heard all throughout the rock and metal scene of the 1980s. “His use of guitar pedals and effects was just so different,” Young said. “He basically made it sound like a UFO at times.”
A solid example of this is the song “1984” from the 1984 album.
Young also recalled the day Van Halen passed away.
“It was devastating when he died,” he said. “I was at work when I found out and just felt like s—.”
He blared Van Halen music for days after. Light reacted similarly.
Needless to say, Van Halen was a legend with a lasting impact on other fellow guitar players to follow in his footsteps.
“When thinking of greatest guitar players of all time, I mean, if Eddie Van Halen doesn’t come to your head, then I don’t know what to say,” Light said.