Eddie Van Halen, who was the main songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist of the rock band Van Halen, which he co-founded in 1972, died on October 6, 2020, at the age of 65, surrounded by his family. Read on to learn about Eddie’s cause of death and the legacy he left behind.
How Did Eddie Van Halen Die?
Eddie Van Halen, the guitarist and songwriter who was well-known for popularizing the tapping guitar solo technique, allowing rapid arpeggios to be played with two hands on the fretboard, died on October 6, 2022. He was 65. Eddie’s death was announced by his son, Wolf Van Halen, who wrote:
“I can’t believe I’m having to write this,” the statement said, “but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift.”
However, Eddie’s cause of death was confirmed two months after his death. The rock icon died at the age of 65, following a long battle with cancer. Van Halen’s death certificate cited his immediate cause of death as a cerebrovascular accident or a stroke.
Eddie had several underlying causes, including pneumonia, the bone marrow disorder myelodysplastic syndrome and lung cancer. The certificate also listed several “other significant conditions”, including skin cancer on his head and neck and an irregular heart rate.
Eddie’s Previous Health Issues
Van Halen struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. He began smoking and drinking at the age of 12, and he stated that he eventually needed alcohol to function. He entered rehabilitation in 2007 and later shared in an interview that he had been sober since 2008.
Suffering from lingering injuries from past, high-risk, acrobatic stage performances and crashes, Eddie underwent hip replacement surgery in 1999, after his chronic avascular necrosis, with which he was diagnosed in 1995, became unbearable.
Eddie began receiving treatment for tongue cancer in 2000. The subsequent surgery removed roughly a third of his tongue. He was declared cancer-free in 2002. He blamed the tongue cancer on his habit of holding guitar picks in his mouth, stating in 2015:
“I used metal picks – they’re brass and copper – which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer. … I mean, I was smoking and doing a lot of drugs and a lot of everything. But at the same time, my lungs are totally clear. This is just my own theory, but the doctors say it’s possible.”
In 2012, Van Halen underwent emergency surgery for a severe bout of diverticulitis. Recovery time required due to the surgery led to the postponement of Van Halen tour dates scheduled in Japan.
Van Halen was later hospitalized in 2019 after battling throat cancer over the previous five years, and his ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli also mentioned a battle with lung cancer in an Instagram post shortly after his death. However, his immediate cause of death per his death certificate is a cerebrovascular accident or a stroke.
Where was Eddie Van Halen Cremated?
Eddie Van Halen’s high-flying guitar sound — heavy on tapping, with both hands on the neck of the instrument — was deeply influential, but also hard to imitate. He grew up obsessed with Eric Clapton, only to himself become a lodestar for generations of guitarists.
As per his final wishes, Van Halen was cremated and his ashes given to his son Wolfgang, TMZ reports. His ashes will be scattered off the coast of Malibu, California, the city in which he lived for years.
Eddie Van Halen’s Legacy
Van Halen was the main songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist of the rock band Van Halen, which he co-founded in 1972 with his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, alongside bassist Mark Stone and singer David Lee Roth.
He is regarded as one of the greatest guitar players in rock history and was well known for popularizing the tapping guitar solo technique, allowing rapid arpeggios to be played with two hands on the fretboard.
Van Halen was never taught to read music. He was a natural at what he did. Eddie watched recitals of Bach or Mozart and improvised. Between 1964 and 1967, he won first place in the annual piano competition at Long Beach City College. His parents wanted the boys to be classical pianists, but Van Halen gravitated toward rock music.
In 1972, Eddie co-founded Van Halen alongside his brother. By 1974, the band included a lineup that made it one of the biggest groups in rock history: the two Dutch-born brothers, plus bassist Michael Anthony and singer David Lee Roth. Throughout the late 1970s and early ’80s, Van Halen became increasingly successful.
The band’s early hits include 1979’s “Dance the Night Away”, and chart-topping “Jump,” as well as flamboyant hits like “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher.” Peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart, their album 1984 was held back only by Michael Jackson’s Thriller, whose iconic “Beat It” just happened to feature a guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen.
However, by 1984 tensions intensified between the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth, who left the band in 1985 for a solo career that capitalized on his cheerful, outsize persona. The remaining members of Van Halen regrouped around former Montrose frontman Sammy Hagar, who helped the group top the charts with its next four albums: 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) and Balance (1995).
In 1996, Hagar also left Van Halen, citing creative differences. It was the time when Roth rejoined for a brief time, giving way to former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone, whose one album with Van Halen (1998’s Van Halen III) was a critical and commercial disappointment. Hagar and Roth both rejoined the group at various points since 2003, with the latter presiding over Van Halen’s final album, 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth.
You Can’t Have Van Halen Without Eddie…
In February 2017, Van Halen donated 75 guitars from his personal collection to The Mr Holland’s Opus Foundation, a program that provides musical instruments to students in low-income schools.
At the 2020 Billboard Music Awards, Eddie Van Halen was honoured by several former musicians he worked with. Musicians like Jack White (White Stripes) G.E. Smith and Charlie Benante (Anthrax) gave speeches as a tribute to his career.
Wolfgang Van Halen also shared several personal photos between him and his father. On October 10, 2020, Saturday Night Live paid tribute by playing a clip of him performing with G. E. Smith from a February 1987 show, which was hosted by Valerie Bertinelli.
In 2020, the Pasadena Library, located in Pasadena, California, offered several archives and documents related to Eddie Van Halen. The collection included several albums, along with photographs by Neil Zlozower, and several CDs. The library also uploaded Van Halen’s albums to Hoopla.
On November 16, 2020, his son Wolfgang Van Halen announced on The Howard Stern Show that Van Halen would not continue as a band, saying “You can’t have Van Halen without Eddie Van Halen”. Well, that is true because if you’re a Van Halen fan, you’d feel every single word of what Eddie’s son said, eh?