I heard the electric static and felt the slight vibration from placing the old headphone jack into my record player, and before I knew it, the disillusioning opening track to Van Halen’s “1984” transported me to a new place. After a minute and 12 seconds of confusion, I was struck by Edward Lodewijk Van Halen’s guitar in arguably the band’s most famous song, “Jump.” By the time I got to the third track, “Panama,” my headphones were unplugged and I was dancing as no one had ever seen.
After hearing about Eddie Van Halen’s death on Oct. 6, I was immediately taken back to my 14-year-old memory of carelessly dancing to the rock genius. Throughout the years, Van Halen has occasionally resurfaced from the depths of my liked songs on Spotify, always leading to a spontaneous dance party; however, I have never given the band, and Eddie, the spotlight they deserved.
Van Halen was born in 1972, with Eddie leading on the guitar and his brother, Alex, on the drums. Eddie and Alex were the rocks of the band with a continuously rotating cast of lead singers. No matter the singer, Eddie’s high-flying guitar sound was impossible to imitate. His two-handed finger-tapping technique was paired perfectly with the hyperactivity of the electric guitar and the fast-paced rhythm of their songs, setting the band up for complete success and an incredible legacy. By 1974, Van Halen had established their lineup that would make it one of the most notable rock bands in music history: Alex and Eddie Van Halen, bassist Michael Anthony, and singer David Lee Roth. To put their destined fame in perspective, Gene Simmons, the Kiss bassist, found Van Halen in 1977 at a local club and financed their first recording session. After signing with Warner Bros and releasing their 1978 debut self-titled album, the band had their breakthrough with 1984 — my dancing go-to and the band’s sixth album. The album reached No. 2 on the Billboard album charts, only second to Michael’s Jackson’s “Thriller” album, which just so happened to contain an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo in the iconic “Beat It.”
Unfortunately, the immense fame after releasing 1984 tore Roth away from the band in 1985. The remaining members regrouped and picked up Sammy Hagar as a replacement for only about two years; however, the band’s fame never diminished and they continued to rule the rock world until the mid-1990s, with continuous “reunion” tours with both Hagar and Roth. By the time Van Halen reached the 2000s, sadly, the band began to drown in watered-down reunion tours, alcohol and insane public behavior.
Regardless, Van Halen’s sound and completely consuming energy was built by Eddie. In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their rock n’ roll dominance and electric sound, which Eddie was largely responsible for. In the same vein, the technique that the legendary guitarist birthed played an integral role in the development of rock and roll. Eddie paved the way and heavily influenced artists such as DJ Ashba from Guns N’ Roses, Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme, and Damon Johnson from early Thin Lizzy.
To pay tribute to the short, but unbelievable life of Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, dive into a Van Halen album, whether it be 1984 or Van Halen. Listen to the enticing, galvanic guitar solos, and lean into the two-handed finger-tapping excitement. Lastly, take out your headphones and dance like no one is watching.