Van Halen, who started the rock band with his brother, Alex Van Halen, along with bassist Mark Stone (later replaced by Michael Anthony), and singer David Lee Roth in the early ’70s, died following a battle with throat cancer. Sources told TMZ that Van Halen was at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, when he died on Tuesday.
The “Hot for Teacher” rocker — born Edward Lodewijk Van Halen in Amsterdam — had been publicly battling throat cancer for almost two decades. Doctors recently discovered that his cancer had spread to other organs in his body, including his brain.
“Any cancer can spread to the brain, but the types most likely to cause metastases are lung, breast, colon, kidney, and melanoma,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Brain metastases, or secondary brain tumors, occur in 10 to 30% of adults with cancer.”
Van Halen, who played the guitar solo in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and whose instrumentals on his band’s track, “Eruption,” were voted No. 2 in Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Guitar Solos,” is survived by his son, Wolfgang, who became Van Halen’s bassist in 2006 and whose mother is the guitarist’s ex-wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli; his wife, Janie Liszewski; and his brother, Alex Van Halen.
Van Halen Opened Up About His Throat Cancer Diagnosis in 2001 After Doctors Were Forced to Remove Part of His Tongue
Van Halen first confirmed his throat cancer diagnosis in 2001. The “Runnin’ With the Devil” guitarist wrote the following message to fans on his website:
I’m sorry for having waited so long to address this issue personally. But, cancer can be a very unique and private matter to deal with. So, I think it’s about time to tell you where I’m at.
I was examined by three oncologists and three head & neck surgeons at Cedars Sinai (Medical Center in Los Angeles) just before spring break and I was told that I’m healthier than ever and beating cancer.
Although it’s hard to say when, there’s a good chance I will be cancer-free in the near future. I just want to thank all of you for your concern and support.
Van Halen, who was a heavy smoker, first started getting treatment at a hospital in Houston in May 2000, but at the time he claimed he was only admitted for preventative treatment. However, it was later revealed that doctors were forced to remove one-third of his tongue, according to TMZ.
Van Halen Traveled Back & Forth From Germany for 5 Years to Battle Throat Cancer With Radiation Treatment
In 2019, Van Halen was hospitalized with intestinal issues and abdominal pain, per TMZ. At the time, his suffering was chalked up to a bad reaction to drugs he was taking to fight off throat cancer.
Prior to that, for five years, Van Halen flew between Germany and the United States for radiation treatment. Each time the cancer cells attempted to travel down his throat, doctors scared the migrating cells out.
In 2019, Van Halen revealed that he believed his cancer stemmed from a metal guitar pick he used 20 years ago, TMZ reported. He described holding the pick in his mouth, which he believed could’ve caused his cancer.
Tributes to the Legendary Guitarist Filled Social Media Following His Death
On Tuesday, Wolfgang wrote a tribute to his father on Instagram. Sharing a black-and-white photo of his father, he wrote:
I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning.
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.
Fans, friends, and fellow musicians also shared heartfelt social media messages to Van Halen, who’s largely considered one of the most influential guitarists of all time.