Who Was Eddie Van Halen?

Pac Man. Parachute pants. The Walkman. The Rubik’s Cube. These are all symbols of American culture in the 1980s. And today’s Wonder of the day is another famous person who dominated that decade – Eddie Van Halen!

Who was Eddie Van Halen? He was known as one of the greatest guitarists in history! Many even considered him a musical prodigy. He was not only a guitar virtuoso, but also skilled in playing the piano, cello, and various other instruments. He was also a composer who was once compared to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Eddie Van Halen was born in the Netherlands in 1955. In the early 1960s, his family moved to Pasadena, California. Growing up with Dutch and Indonesian heritage, Van Halen was bilingual and spoke both Dutch and English as a child.

From a young age, Eddie and his older brother Alex showed a passion for music. Eddie had already mastered the piano before he started playing the guitar. Meanwhile, Alex focused on perfecting his drumming skills.

Together, they formed the band Van Halen, which became one of the top bands of the 1980s. Van Halen produced popular hits like “Jump,” “You Really Got Me,” and “Panama.” Although the band had various members come and go, the Van Halen brothers remained constant.

As the lead guitarist of the band, Eddie Van Halen gained fame for his distinctive sound and captivating stage presence. He was renowned for his electrifying guitar solos and his use of the two-handed tapping technique, where both hands are used to produce notes on the guitar’s fretboard.

Van Halen not only excelled at playing the guitar, but he also revolutionized it. He created the Frankenstrat guitar by combining elements from a Fender and a Gibson. Additionally, he held three guitar-related patents during his lifetime.

Despite his achievements, Eddie Van Halen never learned to read sheet music. Instead, he learned by observing other musicians and practicing extensively. He also struggled with nerves and anxiety throughout his life, which exacerbated his ongoing battle with alcohol addiction.

In 1981, Van Halen married Valerie Bertinelli, and they had a son named Wolfgang in 1990. The couple remained together until 2002. Eddie frequently played music with his son, and in 2006, Wolfgang officially joined the family band. In 2008, Van Halen married his second wife, Janie Liszewski.

Eddie Van Halen was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, but he went into remission after treatment. Unfortunately, the cancer returned and spread in 2012. Eddie Van Halen passed away on October 6, 2020.

Today, Eddie Van Halen is remembered as one of the most talented guitarists in history. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and his music continues to be enjoyed by people worldwide.

Have you ever listened to Van Halen? Are you a fan of music from previous decades? Eddie Van Halen is just one of the many legends in the world of rock and roll. Take some time today to listen to some of your favorite songs!

Try It Out

Ready to continue learning? Find an adult who can assist you with one or more of the activities listed below!

Explore Eddie Van Halen and the 1980s

  • Discover more about Eddie Van Halen’s iconic Frankenstrat, also known as “Frankenstein.” What stands out to you about this guitar? Why was it made? What does it symbolize about Van Halen? Summarize your findings for a friend or family member.
  • Learn fascinating facts about the 1980s. How does this decade differ from the present time? Discuss these differences with a friend or family member.
  • Share your taste in music. What aspects do you enjoy about your favorite genre? Write a paragraph describing your preferred music and the reasons behind your appreciation. Then, select a few beloved songs to play for a friend or family member. In return, ask them to share some of their favorite songs with you!

    Wonder Sources

    • https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/eddie-van-halen-tribute-1081034/ (accessed 28 Oct. 2020)
    • https://www.biography.com/musician/eddie-van-halen (accessed 28 Oct. 2020)
    • https://www.npr.org/2020/10/14/921756326/eddie-van-halen-teen-idol (accessed 28 Oct. 2020)
    • https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/07/entertainment/eddie-van-halen-achievements-trnd/index.html (accessed 28 Oct. 2020)

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