Australian music fans have awoken to the news that pioneering guitar genius Eddie Van Halen has died at the age of 65 of throat cancer.
EVH burst onto the world stage in 1978 with the release of Van Halen’s debut album which featured the iconic guitar track ‘Eruption’, taking guitar gymnastics to a place we’d never seen or heard before. If Hendrix was the mad professor of rock then Eddie was the supreme athlete, tapping and stretching notes beyond what we thought was capable and like Hendrix, inspiring millions of kids around the world to pick up the guitar and play. The band Van Halen lived two notably successful lives, one with Diamond David Lee Roth out front, delivering hits such as Panama, Jump and You Really Got Me, and then in the mid eighties with Sammy Hagar and the mega selling 5150 album, giving us tracks such as Dreams and Why Can’t This Be Love. Van Halen went on to sell tens of millions of albums and were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2012, Guitar World Magazine ranked Eddie Van Halen Number one on its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

Eddie will also be forever known as the guitarist who played the blistering guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s Beat It. His blazing guitar solo lasted all of 20 seconds and took half an hour to record. He did it for free, as a favor to producer Quincy Jones, while the rest of his Van Halen bandmates were out of town. “I said to myself, ‘Who is going to know that I played on this kid’s record, right? Nobody’s going to find out.’ Wrong!” he laughs. “Big-time wrong. It ended up being Record of the Year,” Eddie revealed to CNN.

Tributes are flooding in from artists all over the world on social media, none more heartfelt than that of Eddie’s son Wolf.
“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. 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.”

Steve Vai, another guitar god has just posted the following:
“Feeling deep sadness and overwhelming appreciation. The appreciation and love for him is bigger though. Let’s take a minute and try to imagine our world if he never showed up. It’s unthinkable. Thank you King Edward. You are deeply loved and will be missed.”

“I’m just devastated to hear the news of the passing of my dear friend Eddie Van Halen. He fought a long and hard battle with his cancer right to the very end. Eddie was one of a very special kind of person, a really great friend. Rest In Peace my dear friend till we meet again”, said Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi.

American guitarist Alex Skolnick summed up what many other guitar players are feeling today when we he posted, “There have been many big losses in the music world but few that just stop you in your tracks, leave you speechless and basically unable to function. RIP Eddie Van Halen.”

Attendees at last year’s Melbourne Guitar Show will fondly remember Simon Hosford and James Ryan’s Van Halen tribute band Fair Warning playing the entire Van Halen debt album to a packed crowd of dropped jaws. Clearly effected by the loss, Australia’s James Ryan posted these words along with some heartfelt riffs on Facebook this morning. “Lost for words and in shock at our great loss. R.I.P. Eddie and thank you so much for your great gifts.”

Eddie Van Halen is survived by his wife, Janie (Liszewski) Van Halen, his son Wolf and brother Alex.

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  • Dom DiSisto
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