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Eddie Van Halen

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Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen live in 1984.Eddie Van Halen live in 1984.
Birth NameEdward Lodewijk Van Halen
Nickname(s)EVH, King of Ten Fingers & Six Strings
BornJanuary 26, 1955
Nijmegen, Netherlands
OriginPasadena, CA, USA
OccupationMusician, songwriter, producer, arranger
InstrumentsGuitar, synthesizer, piano, vocals, bass
Years Active1971-Present
LabelsWarner Bros., Interscope Records
Edward "Eddie " Lodewijk Van Halen (born January 26, 1955 in Nijmegen) is a Dutch-born American musician, songwriter and producer. He is best known as the lead guitarist, keyboardist and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen. He is considered to be one of the world's greatest guitarists, and one of the most influential rock guitarists of the 20th century. In 2012, he was voted in a Guitar World magazine reader's poll as the number one of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" over Brian May of Queen (number two) and Alex Lifeson of Rush (number three).

Early Life

Eddie the son of Dutch father, Jan Van Halen, a clarinetist, saxophonist, and pianist, and Indonesian-born Eurasian mother, Eugenia Van Halen (born van Beers).

Eddie's middle name, "Lodewijk," is after composer Ludwig van Beethoven (Lodewijk is the Dutch version of Ludwig). Edward continued this naming tradition by naming his son Wolfgang Van Halen after composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In February 1962, the Van Halen family moved to the United States, settling in Pasadena, California.

Eddie and his older brother, Alex, learned to play the piano as children. The brothers commuted from Pasadena to San Pedro to study with an elderly man, Stasys (Stanley) Kalvaitis who taught them classical piano. Eddie and Alex hated the commute, but continued as their mother would discipline them if they refused to go. Eddie revealed in several interviews that he never could read the music. Instead, he learned from watching and listening. During recitals of Bach or Mozart, he would simply wing it. From 1964 through to 1967, Edward won first place in the annual piano competition held at Long Beach City College. Afterward, the judges would comment that he had an interesting interpretation of the classical piece. Ed's view was, "What? I thought I was playing it correctly!" However, according to one interview, playing the piano did not prove to be challenging or interesting to him. Consequently, while Alex began playing the guitar, Eddie bought a drum kit and began practicing for hours every day.

After Ed heard Alex's performance of the The Surfaris' drum solo in the song "Wipe Out," he decided to switch instruments and began learning how to play the electric guitar. According to Eddie, as a teen, he would often practice while walking around at home with his guitar strapped on or sitting in his room for hours with the door locked. Ed acknowledged the importance of supergroup Cream's "I'm So Glad" on Goodbye Cream to be mind-blowing. He once claimed that he had learned almost all of Eric Clapton's solos in the band Cream "...note for note. I've always said Eric Clapton was my main influence, but Jimmy Page was actually more the way I am, in a reckless-abandon kind of way."

Eddie and Alex formed their first band with three other boys, calling themselves The Broken Combs, performing at lunchtime at Hamilton Elementary School in Pasadena, where Ed was in the fourth grade. Eddie would later say that this was when he first felt the desire to become a professional musician.

Forming Van Halen

The band Van Halen, originally called "Genesis" with bass player Mark Stone, became "Mammoth" when they discovered there was already a band from England with the name Genesis. Mammoth consisted of Eddie on guitar and lead vocals, Alex on drums, and Stone on bass. Mammoth had no P.A. system of their own, so they rented one from David Lee Roth, a service for which he charged by the night. Eddie had become frustrated with singing lead vocals, and decided they could save money by letting Roth into the band. Michael Anthony soon replaced Mark Stone on bass. The group opted to change its name since there already was a band called Mammoth, and Dave suggested that the last name of the two brothers "...sounded cool." DLR also revealed in an interview that he thought that changing the name would give the group staying power..."Would people think it was a name? A place?"

At one point, the group even considered naming themselves Rat Salade after the Black Sabbath song "Rat Salad", before settling on Van Halen. The band originally began playing cover material, ranging from pop to disco, before their rise to relevance on the Sunset Strip allowed them to original material. In 1976, band supporter Rodney Bingenheimer invited Kiss bassist Gene Simmons to check out a Van Halen show.

Impressed, Simmons soon produced and financed a Van Halen demo tape with recording beginning at the Village Recorder studios in Los Angeles, and finishing with overdubs at the Electric Lady Studios in New York. Eddie struggled with the guitar overdubs, and the band played a lot of the tracks on rented instruments. Looking to strike a recording contract, Simmons shopped the demo tape around, but found no success. Even Kiss manager Bill Aucoin passed on it. One rainy night in May 1977 at the Starwood Club, Van Halen was spotted by record producer Ted Templeman. Like Simmons, Templeman was impressed and quickly convinced Warner Bros. Records executive Mo Ostin to sign the band, and they accepted 24 hours later. Their debut album Van Halen was recorded in mid-September to early October 1977, and was released on February 10, 1978.

David Lee Roth Era

Van Halen released a total of six albums with vocalist David Lee Roth: Van Halen (1978), Van Halen II (1979), Women and Children First (1980), Fair Warning (1981), Diver Down (1982), and 1984 (1983). However, the band had trouble working together as a cohesive unit. According to Gene Simmons' book Kiss and Make-Up, Eddie approached Simmons in 1981 about possibly joining Kiss to replace Ace Frehley, chiefly because of his personality conflicts with Roth.

Simmons and Alex persuaded Ed to remain in Van Halen, while Kiss replaced Frehley with Vinnie Vincent. Shortly afterwards, Van Halen released the album 1984, which yielded the band's first #1 hit "Jump." Other singles released from the album performed well, particularly "Hot for Teacher," the video for which featured a skimpily dressed model playing the part of a female elementary school teacher and school-age boys portraying younger versions of the band members. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts, behind Thriller by Michael Jackson, on which Eddie also played.

Jimmy Page said at the time, "For my money, Van Halen was the first significant new kid on the block. Very dazzling." In 1982, EVH was invited by producer Quincy Jones to contribute the guitar solo for Michael Jackson's recording for Thriller's "Beat It." Eddie improvised and integrated the familiar Van Halen-style guitar solo bridge in the new song. Part of rock lore was that credit for his work on the noteworthy track was sufficient and Ed declined the payment he was offered for his performance.

The David Lee Roth era ended on April 1, 1985 when Dave officially left the band. The band's final performance with Dave (for nearly 23 years) was at the Monsters of Rock Festival in Nuremberg, Germany on September 2, 1984. It is also the last time the original band has played live together.

Sammy Hagar Era

With Dave out of the picture, the band needed a new singer. However in July 1985, Eddie met former Montrose singer Sammy Hagar while getting his mechanic, Claudio, to work on his Ferrari. The pair hit it off and the new singer and band immediately hired and began work on new songs. With the arrival of Sammy the band's sound changed somewhat to adapt to the strengths of the new vocalist, as Eddie's keyboard playing became a permanent fixture, heard in songs such as "Why Can't This Be Love?," "Dreams" and "Love Walks In."

Sammy appeared on four studio albums with the band, 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991), and Balance (1995), as well as band's first live album, Live: Right Here, Right Now (1993). During Sam's time with the band, some fans informally referred to the band as "Van Hagar" to distinguish it from the David Lee Roth lineup. With Sammy, all four studio releases reached #1 on the Billboard charts. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was awarded the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal. Their live album Live: Right Here, Right Now peaked at #5.

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