Rock legend Eddie Van Halen dies from cancer at 65
Eddie Van Halen, influential guitarist and founding member of his namesake rock band Van Halen, died on Tuesday. He was 65.
His only child, Wolfgang Van Halen, confirmed the news on social media.
"I can't believe I'm having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning," he tweeted. "He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I've shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don't think I'll ever fully recover from this loss. I love you so much, pop."
Van Halen's ex-wife, Valerie Bertinelli, replied to her son's tweet with multiple broken hearts. The former One Day at a Time star was married to the legendary rocker from 1981 to 2007.
Van Halen was first treated for tongue cancer in 2000 and was declared cancer-free in 2002. But his cancer battle raged on and off throughout the years. In 2019, David Lee Roth confirmed that his former Van Halen bandmate had been battling throat cancer for the last five years.
Eddie Van Halen was born in Amsterdam on Jan. 26, 1955. He and his older brother, Alex, were first introduced to music as children. After leaving the Netherlands, their family settled in the Southern California suburb of Pasadena, where their parents bought them a piano. Though they dedicated years to the instrument, Eddie would move on to playing the drums and Alex a guitar before switching.
Although Van Halen never learned how to read music, he would go on to become one of the greatest guitarists in the world.
Eddie and Alex would become founding members of Van Halen in 1972, playing at notable Los Angeles music venues like the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. They signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1977 and would go on to release a string of multiplatinum records starting, with their eponymous 1978 debut, which spawned the hard-driving "Runnin' With the Devil," the band's raucous cover of the Kinks "You Really Got Me," and Van Halen's epic guitar showcase "Eruption." The album became Diamond-certified for sales of 10 million copies. Thanks to subsequent releases featuring a passel of future classic rock staples— "Jamie's Cryin'," "Unchained," "Dance the Night Away," "Jump," "Panama," "Why Can't This Be Love?" and "Right Now"— the band cemented themselves as one of the most popular— and colorful— rock groups of all time
The band, which also featured Michael Anthony on bass and memorable backing vocals, was notable for its multiple iterations, finding success with both original singer David Lee Roth and his replacement Sammy Hagar. Gary Cherone of the Boston band Extreme also served a stint at the microphone and Van Halen's son Wolfgang would also join the band as a bass player in the mid-2000s.
In addition to their commercial success, Van Halen were nominated for several Grammy awards, taking home the Best Rock Performance Grammy for the 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
A guitar-lover to his core Van Halen received three patents for his axe inventions, including one for a supportive device to hold a guitar while in the flat position, a tension adjustment for a stringed musical instrument used as a tailpiece, and a guitar peghead.
Van Halen married actress Janie Liszewski in 2009, with his son Wolfie serving as best man, brother Alex as the officiant, and ex-wife Bertinelli as a guest.