|Eddie Van Halen, 1955–2020
What can you say when one of your lifelong heroes dies? How do you adequately capture what that person meant to you?
As far as I'm concerned, Eddie was the most innovative and influential rock guitarist since Hendrix.
And second place isn't even close.
If you learned to play guitar in the 1980s, you know just how large he loomed. He set the mold for modern rock guitarists of the time. Even if you didn't really like Van Halen's music or image, you had to respect the guitar playing. And even if, like me, you were completely tired of all the lame copycats, you didn't lump him in with them because it wasn't his fault everybody else was such a poor imitation.
There are a million great photos of Eddie. The guy was extremely photogenic when he was young. This one represents as well as any the way I like to remember him. Wild, uninhibited, aggressive, yet joyous – exactly the way he played his guitar.
And it captures what it felt like to first hear him. For me, that was in a friend's car in 1979 and the song was Eruption. (How perfect is that?!) I didn't even play guitar yet and I was blown away. I couldn't conceive of how he was physically playing it because it was genuinely like nothing I'd ever heard before. But I was even more knocked out by the sound. That was my first introduction to the power of tone. I think that moment of discovery was the deal sealer for me and guitar. I bought one a few months later and have never stopped playing since.
RIP Eddie. There will never be another.