Eddie Van Halen: 5 Things To Know About The Legendary Guitarist Dead At 65

Eddie Van Halen, of the greatest guitarists of all time, is dead. The Van Halen co-founder passed away after a battle with throat cancer. As the music world mourns, here’s what you need to know.

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Eddie Van Halen passed away on Oct. 6, sending shockwaves of grief throughout the music world. The 65-year-old guitar virtuoso, known for his work in the eponymous band Van Halen, succumbed to throat cancer after a prolonged battle with the disease. Eddie was reportedly surrounded by family when he passed, according to TMZ, and his son, Wolfgang Van Halen, 29, confirmed Eddie’s death in an emotional Twitter post. “I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodeqik 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 the loss. I love you so much, Pop,” added Wolfgang, who played bass in Van Halen alongside his father and uncle, drummer Alex Van Halen. Eddie’s death sparked a massive outpouring of grief from his fellow musicians, celebrities, and fans. As the world of music pauses to mourn the loss of one of the greatest of all time, here’s what you need to know about Eddie Van Halen.

Alex van Halen, David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, and Michael Anthony in the early 1980s (Everett Collection)

1. He is the main founder of Van Halen. It would be impossible to fully convey the life of Edward Lodewijk Van Halen completely. The man born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Jan. 26, 1955, was arguably the best guitar player in rock and roll history. Voted the top of Guitar World magazine’s 2012 readers’ poll for “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” Eddie helped define what it was to “shred.”

He did so as one of the founding members of Van Halen. Formed in 1972 alongside brother Alex, Mark Stone on bass (to be replaced by Michael Anthony through the band’s initial heyday), and David Lee Roth as the lead vocalist, Van Halen became one of the most influential and successful groups of the late 1970s and mid-1980s. As the principal songwriter, Eddie helped forge a sound that was both critically-acclaimed and commercially successful. Over the span of their first five albums, Van Halen created tracks that are staples of rock and roll, including “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “Jump,” “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher,” and more.

Eddie Van Halen on stage for Van Halen at the PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ August 9, 2015 (Derek Storm/Everett Collection)

Their self-titled debut album reached number 19 on the Billboard pop music charts in 1978 and their song “Jump” from their album 1984 reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1983.

2. His legendary guitar playing can be heard on Michael Jackson’s classic 1982 tune “Beat It.” Eddie played the famous guitar solo in the song and went on to play riffs on other hit songs, including the Jimi Hendrix cover song “If Six Was Nine” from the 2005 album The State of Things by David Garfield and Friends.

3. He’s had injuries from stage antics in the past. Eddie had to have hip replacement surgery in Nov. 1999 after his 1995 diagnosis of avascular necrosis eventually became unbearable. The diagnosis was caused by injuries brought on by the antics and crashes he had on stage during performances.

Eddie Van Halen in 1992 (Derek Storm/Everett Collection)

4. He was married multiple times. His first marriage was to actress Valerie Bertinelli, with whom he shares son Wolfgang, in 1981. They had Wolfgang in 1991 before divorcing in 2007. He then went on to marry Janie Liszewski in 2009. Valerie and Eddie’s friendship remained strong and she was there by his side to hold Eddie in his last moments. 

5. He had emergency surgery in 2012. The surgery was needed after he suffered a severe bout with the gastrointestinal disease, diverticulitis. It caused him to have to postpone the Van Halen tour that year.