Eddie Van Halen, legendary guitar virtuoso and co-founder of iconic rock group Van Halen, passed away on October 6, 2020 after a decade-long battle with cancer. While he might have shed his mortal coil to Jump with the angels, his legacy lives on: Eddie’s son Wolfgang took up his father’s – and uncle’s – mantle. The youngest Van Halen joined the hard rock quartet back in 2006 as bass player after the departure of Michael Anthony, and he’s already very popular with the fans. In Eddie’s own words, “To have my son follow in my footsteps on his own, without me pushing him into it, is the greatest feeling in the world”.
One might say that talent runs in the family, since Eddie’s father – Jan van Halen was also an accomplished clarinet, saxophone and piano player. The fact of the matter is that, while the passion for music tends to be genetic for the Van Halens, it didn’t get the band to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alone. Eddie and his brother Alex began studying the piano from the age of 6, then gave other instruments a pat-down before settling on the guitar and respectively, drums.
As a teen, Eddie would recall in an interview, he practiced the guitar everywhere, whenever he got the chance, sometimes while he was walking around with the instrument strapped to his chest. On the other hand, he also “confessed” to never being able to read music, and picking up songs near-perfectly be ear alone. Nature? Nurture?
Or perhaps it’s sheer ingenuity, considering Eddie did invent a new fingering technique based on a concept introduced by Jimmy Page AND a flip-out support device for the guitar that facilitates playing it like a piano. He even held a patent for the latter until 2005, when it expired. Let’s also remember that perseverance is a defining trait for the immigrant family who came to America in the 60s with a piano and 50 bucks to their name; they’re a prime example of living the American dream.
Van Halen albums timeline
Van Halen’s big break came in 1977 when Kiss frontman Gene Simmons watched their performance in a local club and immediately saw their potential. What followed was a contract with Warner Records and several multi-platinum albums including Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Diver Down and Fair Warning. 1984 and the album with the same name would elevate them to genuine superstar status.
Eddie’s journey was not without trouble. Alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, a few band breakups and cancer marred his ascension to the top of the charts, but he never stopped fighting his demons. Eddie got sober in 2008 and would never again fall off the wagon. He stayed friends with Valerie Bertinelli after the divorce, with his ex-wife and son even attending the ceremony of the star’s second marriage to Janie Liszewski. Eddie would continue his battle against cancer until the very end, regularly flying to Germany for his radiation therapy.
Eddie Van Halen’s story arc speaks volumes about finding your passion and following through in spite of hardships, making mistakes and atoning for them, but most importantly never backing down in the face of adversity.
We have created the Eddie Van Halen timeline and the Van Halen albums timeline as a tribute to the rock legends using the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in. You can download them free of charge as editable PowerPoint slides and add other major milestones that you feel we might have missed.