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Have you seen Junior's age?



Can we all agree that Eddie Van Halen, or Edward Lodewijk Van Halen as he was named 51 years ago yesterday, is the greatest rock guitarist of all time? Certainly of his generation at the very least. And when it comes to the 80s, the Dutch-born guitarist stands miles above the rest.

Van Halen, the group Eddie founded with brother Alex in the mid 70s, certainly enjoyed some of its greatest success in the 80s. And it has more bizarre history than any band of its generation.
-- Before settling on its current name, the band was known as Mammoth and later Rat Salad. It was lead singer David Lee Roth that suggested simply Van Halen.
-- Gene Simmons of KISS produced one of the band's first demo tapes.
-- Eddie is a classical trained pianist, a skill he showed off when he took over keyboards for albums Diver Down and Fair Warning. (The video for "Jump" -- showing Eddie playing the familiar notes on a keyboard -- is the first hint that fans get about the hidden talent.)
-- Eddie did the guitar work for Michael Jackson's "Beat It." According to sources, his solo was recorded in a single take.
-- In 1981, Eddie married actress Valerie Bertinelli.
-- Eddie wanted to replace Ace Frehley in KISS when the guitarist left the band in 1982. (KISS instead settled on Vinnie Vincent).
-- Roth left Van Halen in 1986 after well-publicized personality conflicts with Eddie. Sammy Hagar stepped in as lead singer for the next 10 years.

Recent years haven't been as kind to our guitar hero. He's had to fight through alcoholism, tongue/mouth cancer and hip replacement surgery. And in December, Valerie Bertinelli filed for divorce. The band still has no lead singer.

Earlier this month, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather told Classic Rock Revisited that his friend Eddie would turn out fine, given a little time. "He is just a ... man who is trying to raise his son and get his health and his mind right. It can't be easy being a guy like that. He has pressure to be absolutely brilliant every time he touches the instrument."

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:16pm]


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