The first I heard of the passing of Eddie Van Halen was a notification from Rick Beato’s YouTube channel. Only a day earlier, Rick had released a video imaging what the results might have been if other guitarists had played over the solo section in Stairway to Heaven instead of Jimmy Page. Rick tried a Peter Frampton-style approach, Eric Johnson played himself and Phil X took on the role of Van Halen’s style. It was a fascinating video but now seems incredibly poignant.
It was so early on that the news hadn’t flooded the Internet. Big sites like the BBC hadn’t picked it up by that point but it was starting to spread and coming from some reputable sources in the music world (although Beato has enough connections that I wasn’t in doubt that it was true).
How much was Van Halen an influence on me. Not much directly although, had electric guitar been my primary instrument rather than bass, that might have been different. He was certainly established as a top notch rock guitar hero although his band’s big chart hit, Jump, was too poppy for my purist heavy metal tastes and by the time For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge came out (1991) it seemed a bit puerile. However, that isn’t to take away from the facts that he was technically virtuosic and a musical genius who’d paid his dues getting people to dance to rock guitar.
At least, although it will be cold comfort to those who were close to him, his passing was down to neither substance abuse (the scourge of all too many musicians) nor COVID-19 (just the scourge of all too many this year). Already there is a surge of clips online demonstrating his skills and there will be plenty of good ones to choose from – the man left a legacy and will continue to exert an influence for a long time to come.