Eddie Van Halen performs in 1980. Van Halen was the lead guitarist of the wildly popular rock band Van Halen. - Photo via abcnews.go.com

The music scene has lost a true legend. On Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, Eddie Van Halen lost his five-year battle with throat cancer at age 65.

Originally diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2000 (which led to him losing a third of his tongue), Van Halen was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015. His passing came as a shock to fans and music lovers alike who praised the artist for his unique guitar playing and contribution to the world of music. 

Certainly, one cannot begin to describe the sound of the 1980s without mentioning the legend that was Van Halen and the wild shredding of his guitar solos. Much of Van Halen’s work defined the sound of a generation and has made a permanent impact on the lives of fans everywhere.

Van Halen was born Edward Lodewijk Van Halen in 1955 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. His family — including older brother Alex, who would go on to become the drummer of the band Van Halen — moved to Pasadena, California in 1962. The brothers studied piano and classical music without ever formally learning how to read music, instead choosing to listen to and replicate the songs they heard. The brothers went on to form small bands during their school years and would sometimes perform for their classmates and teachers during lunchtime. 

In 1972, when Eddie Van Halen was 17, he and his brother formed the band that would go on to become Van Halen. They soon became a staple in the Los Angeles music scene, and within five years were offered a recording contract with Warner Records Inc. Their first album “Van Halen” reached No. 19 on the Billboard 200 chart, making it one of the most successful debuts in rock music. Singles from this album included “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and a cover of The Kinks song “You Really Got Me.” The band continued to have a great deal of success throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s, with Eddie Van Halen supplying the classic guitar solo in Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It,” which was released in 1983. 

Van Halen is also well known within the rock world for coining the term “tapping,” the guitar playing technique that involves using both hands on the neck of the guitar. The technique had already existed for guitar players, and Van Halen did not invent it, but nonetheless he was responsible for popularizing and naming it. 

Although it is impossible to fully flesh out the impact and influence of musical legends like Van Halen, it is a privilege to be able to discuss their musical contributions, lives and legacies that will surely go on to inspire countless young musicians and fans of music for years to come.

Thank you for the music, Eddie!

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