The guitar rock legend died Monday, October 6, 2020, his son, Wolfgang Van Halen announced.
“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 wrote on Twitter.
Van Halen is known for hits including “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher” from the band’s blockbuster record, “1984.” Rolling Stone magazine put Eddie Van Halen made No. 8 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest guitarists. The band is among the top 20 best-selling artists of all time, according to the Associated Press. Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Eddie Van Halen Immigrated to America from Holland With His Family as a Young Boy
Eddie Van Halen, born Edward Lodewijk van Halen, was born January 26, 1955, in Nijmegen, Netherlands to Jan van Halen and Eugenia van Halen, according to the Van Halen News Desk. Shortly after he turned 7, the family left Holland in a boat to come to America. Van Halen also had a brother, Alexander Arthur van Halen, who was two years older than Eddie and joined the family on their journey.
The family of four set off for California after hearing from relatives in the state about its “wonders,” the News Desk reported, and set off with only a few suitcases, a piano and 75 Dutch guilders, which equates to about $15 in American dollars. The journey took them nine days by boat across the ocean and four days by train across the country.
To help pay their fare, Jan, Alex and Eddie provided musical entertainment on the boat. Jan was a Dutch clarinetist, saxophonist and pianist. Eddie’s parents instilled the importance of music into both their boys’ lives. The family settled in Pasedena, California.
2. Van Halen’s Parents Emphasized the Importance of Music in His Life & Inspired Him to Become a Musician
Although Van Halen’s parents took a large risk in immigrating with very little money, music was an important investment his parents were willing to make, according to the Van Halen News Desk. He was trained in classical piano by his father, who was a professional pianist in Holland, and by a Russian teacher. He sometimes wanted to quit his lessons, but his mother would discipline him if he did not go.
He won first place in piano competitions every year from 1964 to 1967 in Long Beach, California, and judges would tell him they appreciated his interpretation of the pieces. Despite his classical training, he never learned to read music. Bored with the piano, he started playing drums at age 12, followed by the electric guitar.
“Eddie Van Halen was something of a musical contradiction,” Associated Press Reporters Mark Kennedy and Mesfin Fekadu wrote in his feature obituary. “He was an autodidact who could play almost any instrument, but he couldn’t read music. He was a classically trained pianist who also created some of the most distinctive guitar riffs in rock history.”
3. Alex Van Halen & Eddie Van Halen Formed Their Band With Members of a Rival High School Band, Initially Calling Themselves ‘Mammoth’
When Eddie and Alex Van Halen were boys, Eddie became a drummer while Alex started playing the electric guitar, according to the Van Halen News Desk. At the time, Eddie was 12 and began discovering rock and roll. He started practicing on the drums four hours a day, but then he and his brother decided to switch instruments.
The first song they played together was the Ventures’ “Walk, Don’t Run.” Eddie Van Halen also added the violin and the cello to his repertoire.
The Van Halen brothers joined up with members of a rival high school band to form Van Halen, picking David Lee Roth as the vocalist and Michael Anthony as the bassist. The former rivals joined up in 1974 to form the band after attending Pasedena City College together, according to the Associated Press.
They initially called their band “Mammoth,” but changed it to Van Halen after learning there was already a band named Mammoth.
4. Valerie Bertinelli, Van Halen’s First Wife, Attended his Second Wedding Ceremony, Where he Married Janie Liszewski
Van Halen married his first wife, Valerie Bertinelli, in 1981, and they remained married for more than 25 years. They divorced in 2007. The couple had a son together, Wolfgang Van Halen.
Bertinelli is an actress known for “One Day at a Time,” “Touched by an Angel,” and “Hot in Cleveland.”
Van Halen remarried in 2008, tying the knot with his publicist, Janie Liszewski. Bertinelli attended their wedding ceremony on June 28, 2007, according to the Van Halen News Desk. The couple dated for three years, and had their honeymoon in New York and in the Netherlands.
Liszewski is also an actress, known for From “Dusk Till Dawn” (1996), “Bubble Boy” (2001) and “A Man Apart” (2003). She was by his side when he died, along with his son and brother, Alex, according to TMZ.
5. Van Halen Had One Son, Wolfgang, Who Joined Van Halen in 2006
Eddie Van Halen had one son, Wolfgang Van Halen, who was born to his first wife, Valerie Bertinelli. He became the bassist for Van Halen in 2006, replacing Mark Anthony. He is now 29 years old.
Van Halen’s instrumental, “316,” was written by Eddie Van Halen in his son’s honor. The name was derived from Wolfgang’s birthday, March 16, 1991.
Wolf Van Halen shared the news of his father’s death on social media shortly.
“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 wrote on Twitter. “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.”