Rock legend Eddie Van Halen dies aged 65

Harriet Brewis
·5-min read

Watch: Remembering legendary rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen

Revered rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen has died at the age of 65.

In a statement posted on Twitter, his son Wolfgang announced that his father lost a "long and arduous" battle with cancer on Tuesday morning.

Van Halen formed his eponymous band in California in 1972, alongside David Lee Roth on vocals, his brother Alex on drums, and Michael Anthony on bass.

The group is among the top 20 best-selling artists of all time, with more than 80 million records sold worldwide.

From left: Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen (Redferns)
From left: Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen (Redferns)

In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Van Halen eighth on their list of the 100 greatest guitar players of all time.

Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready told the magazine: “A lot of it is in his hands: the way he holds his pick between his thumb and middle finger, which opens things up for his finger-tapping.

"When I found out he played that way, I tried it myself, but it was too weird.

“But underneath that, Eddie has soul. It’s like Hendrix – you can play the things he’s written, but there’s an X factor that you can’t get.”

Eddie Van Halen plays the final chord of his band's top-selling single 'Jump' in 2004 (AP)
Eddie Van Halen plays the final chord of his band's top-selling single 'Jump' in 2004 (AP)

Alongside his successes over the years, Van Halen struggled with alcoholism and suffered a number of health issues.

He first received treatment for tongue cancer in 2000 and the subsequent surgery removed about a third of his tongue.

He was declared cancer-free in 2002. It was reported last year that he had been privately battling throat cancer for five years.

The musician's health is understood to have deteriorated over the past three days with doctors discovering the cancer had spread to other organs, TMZ reported.

Watch: Nikki Sixx & Lenny Kravitz lead celebrity tributes to Eddie Van Halen

Announcing the news, Wolfgang, who later became his father's bassist, said: “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.”

pic.twitter.com/kQqDV7pulR

— Wolf Van Halen (@WolfVanHalen) October 6, 2020

Tributes were paid to the legendary guitarist following news of his death.

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill replied to Wolfgang's post, telling him to “take solace” in his father's legacy.

“So sorry for your tragic loss @WolfVanHalen, but take solace in knowing that he will be long remembered and live on forever as one of Rock’s most extraordinary guitar virtuosos,” he tweeted.

“Condolences to you, Valerie @Wolfiesmom and the entire Van Halen family. #RIPEdward”.

So sorry for your tragic loss @WolfVanHalen, but take solace in knowing that he will be long remembered and live on forever as one of Rock's most extraordinary guitar virtuosos. Condolences to you, Valerie @Wolfiesmom and the entire Van Halen family.#RIPEdward https://t.co/XWoCe8nrZv

— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) October 6, 2020

Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler described Van Halen as “a true gent and true genius”.

“Just when I thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, I hear Eddie Van Halen has passed,” he tweeted.

“So shocking – One of the nicest, down to Earth men I have ever met and toured with. A true gent and true genius. RIP. So sad.

"Thoughts go out to his brother Alex, and his family.”

Canadian rock band Nickelback described Van Halen as “perhaps one of the biggest inspirations ever to learn how to play guitar”.

They tweeted: “The world lost an icon, innovator, showman, virtuoso, master songwriter and perhaps one of the biggest inspirations ever to learn how to play guitar.

“Heartbroken to hear of Eddie Van Halen’s passing. Our love, condolences and best wishes to his his family, friends and fans. #RIP”.

Van Halen was married twice. His first wife was the actress actress Valerie Bertinelli. She is Wolfgang’s mother.

They divorced in 2007. Van Halen married Janie Liszewski in 2009. TMZ reported she was by his side when he died at a hospital in Santa Monica.

Eddie Van Halen, left, performing
Eddie Van Halen, left, performing

Van Halen was born in the Netherlands and raised in Pasadena, California.

He was a powerful creative force for the band as they blurred the line between hard rock and heavy metal.

Van Halen’s 1978 self-titled debut sold more than 10 million copies in the US alone and set the group on the road to super stardom.

They followed their debut with Van Halen II, Women And Children First, Fair Warning and Diver Down and by the mid-1980s were one of the most popular acts on the planet.

The band was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2007.