Musician Eddie Van Halen

Things We Saw Today: Eddie Van Halen (January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020)

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Rock legend Eddie Van Halen of the band Van Halen has passed away from throat cancer. The Amsterdam-born guitarist who would go on to become an “all-American guitar hero” and the “grinning guitar god for a rock generation,” as The Los Angeles Times phrased it, was 65.

Van Halen’s son Wolfgang posted a touching goodbye to his father on Twitter.

In a year where grief seems to follow grief in unrelenting waves, fans, friends, and fellow musicians took to social media to remember Eddie Van Halen and hail his contributions to music. Van Halen hits like “Jump” and “Hot For Teacher,” among many others, are an indelible part of pop culture now, with Eddie Van Halen’s signature lightning-quick guitar licks lighting up the songs.

Per The LA Times:

One night at the Starwood nightclub in West Hollywood in 1976, Kiss singer-bassist Gene Simmons happened to catch the unknown band onstage and its grinning guitar phenom at stage left.

“This band comes on, and all of a sudden, I forget about everybody around me. I go, ‘What’s that?’” Simmons recalls. “Even though the band was a three-piece, there was a big sound coming out of them and Eddie was tapping the neck — which I’d never seen done on guitar before — with speed and accuracy in the melody. They simply didn’t sound like anybody else. There was a kind of fury.”

The LA Times’ Steve Appleford has written a fascinating look at Eddie Van Valen, exploring the ups and downs of the rocker’s life and career, as well as Van Halen’s lasting impact on the world of music. It’s well worth being the thing that you read today:

Eddie Van Halen was an immigrant kid who emerged from Pasadena with an ear for hard-rock hooks and wild guitar flash in the Jimi Hendrix tradition. His speed and innovations along the fretboard inspired a generation of imitators, as the band bearing his name rose to MTV stardom and multiplatinum sales over 10 consecutive albums.

In contrast to the shadowy gothic blues of Black Sabbath, or the pagan thunder of Led Zeppelin, the band Van Halen delivered muscular hard rock in Technicolor. The group’s sound and image were vivid reflections of its Southern California home, with a lead guitarist in bright colors and a welcoming, good-time grin.

Thank you, Eddie.

(via The LA Times, photo by Alan Light/Wikimedia Commons)

Here are a few other things we saw:

  • A happy thing: Science fiction author and multiple Hugo award-winner N.K. Jemisin has been named a MacArthur fellow!! (via Tor.com)
  • Another happy thing: Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky helped conservationists release 11 Tasmanian devils at a wildlife sanctuary. (via People.com)
  • Also this is happening:
  • There’s a Resident Evil reboot, I guess? At least I will watch Hannah John-Kamen in anything. (via Deadline)
  • Vote on November 3rd.

What did you see today?

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.