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Eddie Van Halen dies at 65

Carl Lender | Flickr

Influential guitarist Eddie Van Halen died Oct. 6 at the age of 65. Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang, announced through Twitter on Tuesday afternoon saying, “I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Can Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning.”

Having previously battled tongue cancer in the early 2000s, Van Halen succumbed to complications from throat cancer after a five-year fight.

Van Halen was the founder and lead guitarist of the legendary hard rock band, Van Halen. The musician was born in Amsterdam in 1955, and his family moved from the Netherlands to Pasadena, California, where he began his musical exploration. Van Halen and his brother Alex formed the band in 1972, eventually molding into the most iconic version of the band when vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony joined the band in 1974.

The group cemented their place on the list of the great rock bands with their debut self-titled album, Van Halen, in 1978. The album featured one of the band’s staple songs, “Runnin’ with the Devil” and the guitar solo “Eruption,” which is routinely regarded as one of the most noteworthy solos of all time. The solo showcases tapping is a guitar technique that Van Halen helped popularize to ‘80s listeners.

One of Van Halen’s most well-known performances was playing the solo on Michael Jackson’s 1983 single, “Beat It.” The guitar solo took a little under an hour to record and only lasts 20 seconds, nevertheless, it was the key to elevating the song to new heights, canonizing Jackson and Van Halen’s collaboration as one of the greatest amalgams of two genres in pop music history.

Van Halen and the band became one of the most successful music acts of the 1980s with the release of their sixth album, 1984, in 1984. It was the final album to feature all four original members of the band as insured with the death of Van Halen. The record featured several Top 20 hits like “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher.” The most popular song coming from that album is “Jump,” which became the band’s only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.

Van Halen was a true maestro of guitar playing. His fast-paced yet elaborate playing style helped usher in a new era of rock music, completely inspired by the hard-rock band taking over the sunset strip with Van Halen leading the pack.

Forever iconic, Van Halen’s gaffer tape guitar is immediately recognizable. His soloing style was as important to the evolution of rock as Jimi Hendrix’s was to the genre in the 1960s. His death leaves a crater-sized hole in the small group of rock legends whose influence has spanned the confines of the sub-genre and impacted the way listeners hear guitar to this day.

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