(WISH/AP) — Musician Eddie Van Halen died Tuesday morning after a decadelong battle with throat cancer, his son said in a Twitter post. He was 65.
TMZ confirmed the news about the main songwriter and founder of the American rock band Van Halen. The guitarist founded the band in 1972 with brother and drummer Alex Van Halen, bassist Mark Stone and singer David Lee Roth. Stone was replaced by Michael Anthony to create the band’s “classic” lineup. Roth was replaced by Sammy Hagar in 1985.
Wolf Van Halen wrote on Twitter, “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.”
TMZ reported he died at St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica, California. His wife, Janie, was by his side, along with his son, Wolfgang, and Alex, Eddie’s brother and drummer.
Hagar tweeted, “Heartbroken and speechless. My love to the family.”
Van Halen is among the top 20 best-selling artists of all time and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Rolling Stone magazine put Eddie Van Halen at No. 8 in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.
Rolling Stone readers in 2011 chose their top Van Halen songs: “Unchained” (1981), “Panama” (1984), “Hot for Teacher” (1984), “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love” (1978) and “Jump” (1984).
Although he could not read music, he was an autodidact who could play almost any instrument. He was a classically trained pianist who also created some of the most distinctive guitar riffs in rock history. He was a Dutch immigrant who was considered one of the greatest American guitarists of his generation.
In Van Halen’s obituary on RollingStone.com, Andy Greene wrote: “Were it not for his titanic influence, hard rock after the late 1970s would have evolved in unimaginably different ways. He may not have invented two-handed tapping, but he perfected the practice and introduced it to a mass audience. Yet despite his complete mastery of the electric guitar, he never learned to read music.”
The band’s 1978 release “Van Halen” opened with a blistering “Runnin’ With the Devil” and then Van Halen showed off his astonishing skills in the next song, “Eruption,” a furious 1-minute, 42-second guitar solo that swoops and soars like a deranged bird. The album also contained a cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love.”
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam told Rolling Stone magazine that listening to Van Halen’s “Eruption” was like hearing Mozart for the first time. “He gets sounds that aren’t necessarily guitar sounds — a lot of harmonics, textures that happen just because of how he picks.”
Van Halen released albums on a yearly timetable — “Van Halen II” (1979), “Women and Children First” (1980), “Fair Warning” (1981) and “Diver Down” (1982) — until the monumental “1984,” which hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album charts (only behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”). Rolling Stone ranked “1984” No. 81 on its list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s.
“Eddie put the smile back in rock guitar, at a time when it was all getting a bit brooding. He also scared the hell out of a million guitarists around the world, because he was so damn good. And original,” Joe Satriani, a fellow virtuoso, told Billboard in 2015.
“You changed our world. You were the Mozart of rock guitar. Travel safe, rockstar,” Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx said on Twitter.
Added Lenny Kravitz: “Heaven will be electric tonight.”