New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, NY – Eddie Van Halen, the gleeful guitar prodigy who co-founded the legendary rock group Van Halen, has died after a long battle with throat cancer.
He was 65.
Van Halen’s son and bandmate broke the sad news on social media Tuesday.
“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,” Wolfgang Van Halen, whose mom is actress Valerie Bertinelli, wrote.
“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,” he wrote.
Fellow rocker Ozzy Osbourne remembered Van Halen as “one of the nicest guys I ever worked with.”
“We shared so many laughs together. His influence on music and especially the guitar has been immeasurable. He was an absolute legend. Eddie, I’ll see you on the other side, my friend,” Osbourne tweeted.
“My heart is broken. Eddie was not only a Guitar God, but a genuinely beautiful soul. Rest in peace, Eddie!” Kiss frontman Gene Simmons said in a Twitter post.
Van Halen had been battling cancer for more than a decade. He had part of his tongue removed at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston in 2000.
Speaking to Billboard in 2015, the legendary rocker linked his initial diagnosis to the backup guitar picks he liked to grip with his teeth.Rich Fury/Rich Fury/Invision/AP
“I used metal picks — they’re brass and copper — which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer,” he said.
“Plus, I basically live in a recording studio that’s filled with electromagnetic energy. So that’s one theory. I mean, I was smoking and doing a lot of drugs and a lot of everything. But at the same time, my lungs are totally clear. This is just my own theory, but the doctors say it’s possible,” he said.
Born in Amsterdam in 1955, Van Halen was the son of a Dutch musician dad and mom who hailed from Indonesia.
The family moved to southern California when Van Halen was 7 years old. He and older brother Alex grew up playing the piano, studying classical compositions from Bach and Mozart.
Eddie was a natural virtuoso, revealing he couldn’t even read sheet music and instead played by ear and memorization. He reportedly won first place in a piano competition held at Long Beach City College three years in a row in the 1960s.
The melodic metal pioneer eventually switched his attention to guitar and studied songs by Cream’s Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.
He and Alex formed a band called Mammoth while at Pasadena City College, with Eddie briefly filling the role of lead singer.
David Lee Roth was in another local band at the time, and the brothers would sometimes rent Roth’s PA system, he recalled.
“I figured it would be much cheaper if we just got him in the band, so he joined,” Eddie told the magazine.
The musicians agreed to name their group Van Halen and soon became a staple of the Los Angeles rock scene, playing famous Sunset Strip clubs including the Whisky a Go Go.
They signed a recording contract with Warner Bros., and their debut 1978 self-titled album was a breakout hit, fueled in large part by Eddie’s explosive guitar riffs and one of the band’s signature songs, “Runnin’ with the Devil.”
The group released a string of hit albums, with “1984,” going platinum five times its first year. The lead single “Jump” hit No. 1 and ruled both the airwaves and MTV with its energetic video and infectious, instantly recognizable synth line written and performed by Eddie.
The Grammy-winning band toured the world for decades and sold more than 80 million albums. It was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Eddie missed the band’s induction ceremony because he was in rehab.
“I always got hammered to be able to cope,” he told Rolling Stone in 1995. “I have zero social skills and I don’t know how to act, so I get drunk. And then I make a real ass out of myself.”
He married actress Valerie Bertinelli in 1981 and shares his only child, Wolfgang, with the “One Day at a Time” star. They divorced in 2007 after separating in 2001.
Bertinelli on Tuesday posted an Instagram photo of Van Halen and herself with Wolfgang when he was a baby.
Bertinelli wrote, “40 years ago my life changed forever when I met you. You gave me the one true light in my life, our son, Wolfgang.Through all your challenging treatments for lung cancer, you kept your gorgeous spirit and that impish grin.I’m so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments.I will see you in our next life my love.”
By late 2008, Eddie found love again with actress and stunt woman Janie Liszewski, and the couple married in June 2009 with Bertinelli in attendance.
“Heartbroken and speechless. My love to the family,” former bandmate Sammy Hagar — who replaced Roth, and was later replaced by Roth — as singer said in a tweet.