Eddie Van Halen
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Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen.jpg
Van Halen in 2015
Background information
Edward Lodewijk van Halen
Born (1955-01-26) January 26, 1955 (age 63)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
OriginPasadena, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • arranger
  • guitarist
LabelsWarner Bros., Interscope

Edward Lodewijk Van Halen (born January 26, 1955) is a Dutch-American musician, songwriter, and producer. He is the main songwriter and founder -- with drummer Alex Van Halen, bassist Mark Stone, and singer David Lee Roth -- of the American hard rock band Van Halen.

In 2011, Rolling Stone ranked Van Halen number eight in the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists.[1] In 2012, he was voted number one in a Guitar World magazine reader's poll for "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".[2]


Early life

Born in Amsterdam[3], Netherlands, Edward Lodewijk van Halen is the son of Dutch father, Jan van Halen, a clarinetist, saxophonist, and pianist, and Indonesian-born Indo (Eurasian) mother, Eugenia van Halen (née van Beers).[4][5] Van Halen's middle name, "Lodewijk", is after composer Ludwig van Beethoven, "Lodewijk" being the Dutch equivalent of "Ludwig". He continued this tradition by naming his son Wolfgang after composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In February 1962, the family moved to the United States, settling in Pasadena, California.[5] Both Eddie and his older brother, Alex, are naturalized U.S. citizens.[6] The brothers learned to play the piano as children starting at the age of six.[7][8]

They commuted from Pasadena to San Pedro to study with an elderly man, Stasys (Stanley) Kalvaitis[9] who taught them classical piano. Although they hated the commute, they continued as their mother would discipline them if they refused to go.

Van Halen revealed in an interview that he was never able to read music. Instead, he learned from watching and listening. During recitals of Bach or Mozart, he would improvise. From 1964 through 1967, he won first place in the annual piano competition held at Long Beach City College.[9] Afterward, the judges would comment that he had an interesting interpretation of the classical piece. Van Halen's view was, "What? I thought I was playing it correctly!" However, according to one interview, playing the piano did not prove to be challenging or interesting to him.[10] Consequently, while Alex began playing the guitar, Eddie bought a drum kit and began practicing for hours every day.

After Eddie heard Alex's performance of The Surfaris' drum solo in the song Wipe Out, he decided to switch instruments and began learning how to play the electric guitar. According to Eddie, as a teen, he would often practice while walking around at home with his guitar strapped on or sitting in his room for hours with the door locked.[11][12]

Eddie Van Halen acknowledged the importance of supergroup Cream's "I'm So Glad" on Goodbye Cream to be "mind-blowing".[13] He once claimed that he had learned almost all of Eric Clapton's solos in the band Cream "...note for note." "I've always said Eric Clapton was my main influence," Van Halen said, "but Jimmy Page was actually more the way I am, in a reckless-abandon kind of way."[14]

Eddie and Alex formed their first band with three other boys, calling themselves The Broken Combs, performing at lunchtime at Hamilton Elementary School in Pasadena, where Eddie was in the fourth grade. Eddie would later say that this was when he first felt the desire to become a professional musician.[15]

Formation of Van Halen

Van Halen in New Haven, 1978.

In 1972, Van Halen formed another band, originally called "Genesis". The name was changed to "Mammoth" when Van Halen became aware of the English progressive rock band of the same name.[16]

Mammoth consisted of Van Halen on guitar and lead vocals, his brother Alex on drums and bass guitarist Mark Stone. Mammoth had no P.A. system of their own, so they rented one from David Lee Roth,[17] a service for which he charged by the night. Van Halen became frustrated with singing lead vocals,[17] and decided they could save money by adding Roth to the band.[17] Soon after, Michael Anthony replaced Stone on the bass guitar. The band opted to change its name because Roth suggested that the last name of the two brothers "sounded cool".[]

At one point, the band considered using the name "Rat Salade", after the Black Sabbath song of the same name, before settling on "Van Halen".[18][19] The band originally began playing cover material, ranging from pop to disco.[18]

In 1976, band supporter Rodney Bingenheimer invited Kiss bass guitarist Gene Simmons to check out a Van Halen show.[20] Impressed, Simmons soon produced a Van Halen demo tape with recording beginning at the Village Recorder studios in Los Angeles and finishing with overdubs at the Electric Lady Studios in New York.[21]

Looking to strike a recording contract, Simmons shopped the demo tape around, but found no success. In May 1977 at the Starwood, Van Halen was spotted by record producer Ted Templeman. Like Simmons, Templeman was impressed and quickly convinced Warner Bros. Records executive Mo Ostin to sign the band, and they accepted 24 hours later. Their self-titled debut album was recorded in mid-September to early October 1977, and was released on February 10, 1978.

David Lee Roth Era

Van Halen released a total of six albums with vocalist David Lee Roth: Van Halen (1978), Van Halen II (1979), Women and Children First (1980), Fair Warning (1981), Diver Down (1982), and 1984 (1984).

In the early 1980s, the band began having increasing trouble working together as a cohesive unit. According to Gene Simmons' book Kiss and Make-Up, Eddie Van Halen approached Simmons in 1982 about possibly joining Kiss to replace Ace Frehley, chiefly because of his personality conflicts with Roth. Simmons and Alex Van Halen persuaded Eddie to remain in Van Halen, while Kiss replaced Frehley with Vinnie Vincent.

Shortly afterwards, Van Halen released the album 1984, from which the single "Jump", was their first and only #1 single on the ''Billboard'' Hot 100. Other singles released from the album performed well, particularly "Hot for Teacher", the video for which featured a scantily dressed model playing the part of a female elementary school teacher and young actors portraying the band members as children. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts, behind only Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Jimmy Page said at the time, "For my money, Van Halen was the first significant new kid on the block. Very dazzling."[22]

In 1982, Van Halen was invited by producer Quincy Jones to contribute the guitar solo for Michael Jackson's single, "Beat It", but reportedly declined any payment for the recording, deeming a credit on the album sufficient.[23]

Sammy Hagar Era

Van Halen at the 45th Emmy Awards, 1993.

With the arrival of former Montrose singer Sammy Hagar in July 1985, the band's sound changed somewhat to adapt to the strengths of the new vocalist. Eddie Van Halen's keyboard playing became more prominent, as heard in songs such as "Dreams" and "Love Walks In". Hagar appeared on four studio albums with the band, 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991), and Balance (1995), as well as one live album, Live: Right Here, Right Now (1993).

During Hagar's time with the band, some fans informally referred to the band as "Van Hagar" to distinguish it from the David Lee Roth lineup. With Hagar, all four studio releases reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was awarded the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal. The live album Live: Right Here, Right Now peaked at No. 5.

Gary Cherone Era

Following Hagar's departure, the group briefly reunited with original singer David Lee Roth and released Best Of - Volume I, a greatest-hits package, in October 1996. Two new songs were recorded for the album, "Me Wise Magic"--which reached No. 1 on the mainstream rock chart as a single--and "Can't Get This Stuff No More". However, previous disagreements resurfaced and the reunion did not last. Roth left in September 1996 after the MTV Video Music Awards.

The band auditioned many prospective replacements for Hagar, finally settling on Gary Cherone, former frontman of Boston hard rock band Extreme. Cherone predicted that the new lineup would last "10 years"; however, the Van Halen III (1998) album was poorly received. The band completed a world tour with their new single "Without You" and returned to the studio to start on a second album. However, Cherone soon after departed amicably and, without a lead singer, Van Halen went on hiatus.

Reunion with Hagar and Roth

Van Halen (right) with David Lee Roth, November 2007.

In 2004, Van Halen returned with Hagar as their lead singer. A greatest hits package, The Best of Both Worlds, was released to coincide with the band's reunion tour. The album included three new tracks recorded with Hagar, "Up For Breakfast", "It's About Time", and "Learning to See". The band toured the United States, visiting 80 cities.[24]

On February 2, 2007, it was officially announced on the band's website that David Lee Roth would rejoin Van Halen for their summer tour.[25] Excitement over the tour waned when, on February 20, 2007, reports surfaced that the tour was indefinitely postponed. A previously planned compilation of Roth-era Van Halen hits was shelved.[26]

After six months and a stint in rehabilitation for Eddie, the band confirmed on August 13, 2007, at a press conference in Los Angeles, they would do a tour with Roth from late 2007 into 2008 across North America, with worldwide touring and a new album to follow.[27] Persistent rumors had long indicated the Van Halen brothers were in talks with Roth to rejoin the band for a tour and/or new material. Van Halen's then 15-year-old son Wolfgang was to play bass on the tour, replacing Michael Anthony.


Van Halen toured the U.S. and Canada from September 2007 through summer 2008. The band released their twelfth studio album, A Different Kind of Truth, on February 7, 2012, their first album in 14 years and their first album with Roth since 1984. [28]

Style and influence

Van Halen's approach to the guitar involves several distinctive components. His use of two-handed tapping, natural and artificial harmonics, vibrato, and tremolo picking, combined with his rhythmic sensibility and melodic approach, have influenced an entire generation of guitarists. The instrumental "Eruption" was voted No. 2 in Guitar World magazine's readers poll of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.[29][30] Despite his massive success, Van Halen has never fully learned to read music.[31]


The 1978 instrumental "Eruption" by Van Halen showcased a solo technique called tapping, using both left and right hands on the guitar neck. Although Van Halen popularized tapping, he did not invent the tapping technique which had been used infrequently by various guitarists in blues and rock in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.[]

George Lynch said in an interview that he and Van Halen saw Harvey Mandel tap at the Starwood in the 1970s.[32] Van Halen's accounts of how he came across the tapping technique vary. In one interview with Guitar World, he said:

I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his "Heartbreaker" solo back in 1971. He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought wait a minute, open string ... pull off. I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around? I just kind of took it and ran with it.[33]

Van Halen also employs tapping harmonics. He holds the pick between his thumb and middle finger, which leaves his index finger free for tapping, and also makes for easy transitions between picking and tapping.

Van Halen holds a patent for a flip-out support device that attaches to the rear of the electric guitar.[34] This device enables the user to play the guitar in a manner similar to the piano by orienting the face of the guitar upward instead of forward.[35][36][37]

Pickup selection

Van Halen has used a variety of pickups including Gibson PAF's, 1970s Mighty Mites, DiMarzios and Ibanez Super 70s. He was using Mighty Mite pickups in 1977 club photos, just prior to the recording of the first Van Halen album. Mighty Mite pickups were OEM pickups made by Seymour Duncan[38] and were copies of DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups. Seymour Duncan apparently rewound a Gibson PAF for Van Halen around early 1978.[39]

His later guitars include various Kramer models from his period of endorsement for that company (most notably the Kramer 5150, from which Kramer in its Gibson-owned days based their Kramer 1984 design, an unofficial artist signature model) and three signature models: the Ernie Ball/Music Man Edward van Halen Model (which continues as the Ernie Ball Axis), the Peavey EVH Wolfgang (which has been succeeded by a similar guitar called the HP Special), and the Charvel EVH Art Series, on which Van Halen does the striping before they are painted by Charvel. His current deal is with Fender, making the EVH series of striped guitars, Wolfgang guitars, and EVH amps.

In an interview in Guitar World magazine in July 1985, Van Halen states that his "brown sound" is "...basically a tone, a feeling that I'm always working at ... It comes from the person. If the person doesn't even know what that type of tone I'm talking about is, they can't really work towards it, can they?" In an interview with Billboard magazine in June 2015, he states that with the expression "brown sound" he actually tried to describe the sound of his brother Alex Van Halen's snare drum, which he thought "...sounds like he's beating on a log. It's very organic. So it wasn't my brown sound. It was Alex's." [40]


Van Halen is the inventor on US 4656917 .[41] The main claim is for a supporting member on the back of a stringed instrument, allowing the musician to play and/or fret the instrument in new ways.

He is the lead inventor of US 7183475 ,[42] for the D-Tuna he invented to enable a non-floating Floyd Rose-equipped guitar to quickly change the tuning of the low E string by a whole step.[]

Another patent naming Van Halen as inventor is D388117[43] for the headstock design for the EVH Wolfgang guitars.

Personal life

On August 29, 1980, Eddie met actress Valerie Bertinelli at a Van Halen concert in Shreveport, Louisiana.[44] They married in California on April 11, 1981; and have one child, a son, Wolfgang (born March 16, 1991).

After his father's death in December 1986 and his brother Alex's eventual sobriety in April 1987, Eddie Van Halen struggled with drug and alcohol abuse on and off for twenty years. In April 1988, he was hospitalized with dengue fever while on a wedding anniversary vacation in Australia. On September 2, 1994, he made his first attempt at sobriety.

Suffering from lingering injuries from past high-risk acrobatic stage antics and crashes, Van Halen underwent hip replacement surgery in November 1999, after his chronic avascular necrosis, with which he was diagnosed in 1995, became unbearable.[45] In April 2001, Van Halen confirmed he had been undergoing treatment for tongue cancer since May 2000. The subsequent surgery removed roughly a third of his tongue. He was declared cancer-free in May 2002.[]

Since the 2004 tour, Van Halen had largely disappeared from the public eye, with the exception of occasional appearances including the 14th annual Elton John Academy Awards party and a performance at a Kenny Chesney concert. In December 2004, Van Halen attended "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott's funeral, and donated the black and yellow guitar featured on the Van Halen II album inlay, stating that it was always a favorite of Dimebag's. The guitar was put in Darrell's Kiss Kasket and he was buried with it.[46]

On December 5, 2005, Van Halen's wife, Valerie Bertinelli, filed for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court, after four years of separation, which was finalized on December 20, 2007. On March 8, 2007, Van Halen announced on the official band website that Van Halen was entering rehabilitation for unspecified reasons. However, both Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony have made statements indicating that Van Halen's personality had changed due to alcohol abuse.[]

Van Halen emerged from rehabilitation and appeared publicly as an honorary official during a NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway on April 21, 2007. He unveiled a new Fender Stratocaster with a paint job made for the NASCAR races before the ceremony. In 2007, Van Halen was honored in the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II.[]

On October 6, 2008, Van Halen proposed to his girlfriend, Janie Liszewski, an actress and stunt-woman who became Van Halen's publicist in 2007. The two married on June 27, 2009, at his Studio City estate, with his son Wolfgang and Bertinelli in attendance.[47] Eddie's brother Alex officiated the ceremony, while his son served as best man.[48] On January 1, 2011, Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen attended Bertinelli's remarriage.

In mid-January 2011, he attended the winter NAMM Show to present his new Wolfgang guitars, sharing the Fender booth with fellow guitar player Yngwie Malmsteen.[]

In August 2012, Van Halen underwent an emergency surgery for a severe bout of diverticulitis.[49] His recovery time was four to six months, causing Van Halen to postpone their Japanese tour, which was originally scheduled to begin in November 2012.[]

Eddie has donated 75 of his personal guitars to The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation stating: "I wanted to give back to the community, and especially kids in need who want an instrument but didn't have the opportunity I had. I wanted to donate instruments because I have so many guitars and nobody would take them... until we found Mr. Holland's Opus."[50][51]


Other work

Eddie Van Halen has appeared on several projects outside of his eponymous band.

  • 1978:
  • 1982: Invited by Quincy Jones to play guitar on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" on the album Thriller; Steve Lukather of Toto played the main guitar riff and rhythm, while Van Halen played the guitar solo.
  • 1983: Collaborated with Queen lead guitarist Brian May on the Star Fleet Project, a three-track EP consisting of a rock-styled rendition of the theme to the popular anime children's show, a May-penned track (Let Me Out), and an improvised blues track (Blues Breaker).
  • 1984:
    • Recorded several instrumentals for the movie The Wild Life; however, only Donut City was included on the soundtrack album
    • Van Halen provided the score for the 1984 television film, The Seduction of Gina.
  • 1987:
  • 1989: Played bass on the opening track Twist the Knife from Steve Lukather's debut album, as well as providing the guitar part, which was taken from an outtake from the 5150 album titled I Want Some Action.
  • 1992: After asking Thomas Dolby for his help with his studio equipment, Eddie agreed to play on two of his songs, "Eastern Bloc" and "Close but no Cigar" on Dolby's album Astronauts & Heretics.
  • 1994: Co-wrote the riff of a song with Black Sabbath members, Tony Martin, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, called "Evil Eye" on the Cross Purposes album, but he was not credited due to record company restrictions.[52]
  • 1996:
    • Played guitar and bass on Rich Wyman's album Fatherless Child; the songs were recorded between February 1993 and early 1994; he also was co-producer along with Rich Wyman and Andy Johns.[53]
    • Has done soundtrack work for movies such as Over The Top ("Winner Takes It All", a collaboration with Sammy Hagar), Twister (the instrumental "Respect the Wind"), and Lethal Weapon 4 (the track "Fire in the Hole" from Van Halen III).
  • 1998: Performed guitar solos for the Roger Waters song "Lost Boys Calling" from the film The Legend of 1900.
  • 2006: Recorded two new instrumental tracks ("Rise" and "Catherine"), which debuted in an unusual format: in a pornographic feature entitled Sacred Sin directed by a friend of the guitarist, well known adult director Michael Ninn.[54][55]
  • 2009: Played a cameo role in the season seven premiere of the sitcom Two and a Half Men, where he plays the main riff from "As Is" from A Different Kind of Truth.[56]
  • 2013: Appeared on two tracks of LL Cool J's album Authentic: "Not Leaving You Tonight" and "We're The Greatest".[]

Hollywood Rock Walk

Van Halen is on the Hollywood Rock Walk located in front of Guitar Center's Hollywood store on Sunset Boulevard.


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External links

Preceded by
Lead Singer of Mammoth/Van Halen
1972 - 1973
Succeeded by
David Lee Roth

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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