blog, portfolio, and links

Van Halen

Tuesday 6 October 2020 - Filed under Default

Today, guitar legend Eddie Van Halen passed away at the age of 65. I look now at his guitar, a Music Man he designed, and I can feel the energy rising. I imagine these guitars all around the world aglow. Will it burn if I touch it? Will it ever sound the same? This is one of those days I wondered what it might feel like but never wished to find out.

Eddies’s music was around before I knew what music was. His solo in Michael Jackson’s Beat It may have reached the most ears but the entire catalog saw constant airplay on southern California’s rock stations.

My relationship with his music and understanding of his stature began in earnest once I picked up a guitar and within months, I was building the catalog on CD. I began to pick out his unique style on the radio and soon Van Halen was everywhere. Where Have All The Good Times Gone? was posed as a challenge on KLOS. Diver Down became my soundtrack to a 1000-piece puzzle. 5150 lived in my walkman. Fair Warning played on the home stereo as I held the jewel box and studied the few pages of liner notes. I was charmed and pumped by Van Halen II and could never forget Van Halen and the trademark Eruption solo that started it all.

Eruption and his concert solos on Live Without a Net and Right Here, Right Now were so special to me. The tone he developed caused his notes to blaze through the air, each one fiery and clear. During solos Eddie conjured the power to make the audience roar at every expectant pause. To honor this idol, we painted my room after his guitar, with red lines of various widths at crazy angles on all the walls. It was a work of art. 

I fell in love with Van Halen’s music and saw them live just after For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge came out, but they didn’t release another album for four long years. When Balance came I was grateful but noticed phrases repeated from earlier albums. I was concerned that my guitar hero might’ve lost his inspiration and a couple years later I would see video confirming Van Halen’s struggles with alcohol.

In 2012, the band with returning frontman David Lee Roth came to the Pavilion in San Jose. On bass was “Wolfie”, Eddie’s son and inspiration for one of my favorite songs to play, 316. The DLR-era audience had aged and preferred to sit rather than stand but the band was on fire. Though Eddie rushed through certain passages he was clearly having a great time and always crushed the solo.

He recorded a number of interviews and guitar demos that made me feel like he had survived, getting back on track doing what he loved. Then these stories appeared about treatments and the future became less certain.

Eddie put some cars and a signature red fire truck up for sale but I didn’t consider that he might pass away. 65 is young and even with his wild rocker lifestyle, I would never discount the potential of medicine to work wonders. With his death, I am reminded that life is short but it’s hard to describe my surprise at how strongly I feel this loss.

Eddie and his music were a constant companion since I dove into guitar and developed an appreciation of the way music speaks to the human soul. There’s an idealism there, about excellence, individual accomplishment, and perfection that will always remain with me. Not to mention the beautiful melodic echoes of finger-tapped arpeggios.

Rest in Peace Edward Van Halen. You set the guitar ablaze with joy and inspired generations of musicians and guitarists alike. May the fire you ignited always burn.

2020-10-06  »  David Sterry


  1. Virginia Sterry
    6 October 2020 @ 4:47 pm

    Great Tribute To Him David