Just when you think 2020 can’t get worse, it does. Yesterday one of my rock icons passed away and a flood of emotions and memories are rolling around in my head. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer Tuesday at the age of 65.
It seems weird to mourn for someone you don’t know, but for so many of us, we felt like we knew Eddie. There was something about the way he smiled that made you feel like you were in on a joke. The songs of Van Halen touched many of us, and for me, the band was the soundtrack to my youth.
I had older brothers and since I was a tomboy, I had a lot of guy friends. One of my friends growing up was a HUGE Van Halen fan. He worshipped Eddie! And truth told, my buddy was almost as amazing as Eddie on guitar. When I was about 13 years-old, I’d sit in my buddy Johnny’s room and watch him wail out Eddie Van Halen riffs. He was a few years older than me, so I thought I was so cool! He is the one that really got me into Van Halen’s music.
As I got older, and became more of a music fan, I went back and discovered the early Van Halen albums. Then in the 80’s, when I was old enough, I saw Van Halen in concert. The first show I saw was the “1984 Tour” in support of the band’s 1984 album. I was mesmerized! David Lee Roth was the definition of a front man, and watching Eddie Van Halen play guitar was truly astounding. You always felt like Eddie was one with his guitar when he played. It was an extension of him. As a teenage girl that was fascinated by the guitar, watching Eddie was like a dream! And let’s be honest, that boyish grin he had made me swoony!
That tour impacted me in a lot of ways. I was only in 8th grade, but I became such a Van Halen fan. So much so that when I had to do a project for my drama class in school, I used a Van Halen song as the center of my project. I don’t remember the exact assignment, but I know that my project centered around “I’ll Wait” off the bands 1984 album.
Years later, when I was working here in Charlotte for a classic rock station, I saw Van Halen live. It was the band’s 2007 reunion tour and Charlotte was the first date of the tour. It was David Lee Roth, Eddie VH, Alex VH, and Eddie’s son Wolfie on bass. Generally, because of my job in radio, I would get free concert tickets. The band played at Bobcats Arena and the only “free” seats were WAY up in the rafters. I paid $300 for tickets to the show because I wanted decent seats. To date, it’s the most I ever paid for concert tickets. Worth it!!!! Such a good show!
A few years ago, the band came back to Charlotte. The 2015 show was at PNC Music Pavilion. I was lucky enough to score passes to the band’s sound check. Eddie, Alex, and Wolfie came out and did their thing. It was a pure treat to see just the Van Halen family on stage. It was also thrilling to be that close to Eddie! The thing I’ll always remember about that show is the smile that Eddie had on his face. He would look at his son on stage and just smile. You could tell that he was so proud to have his only child on stage with him. I feel lucky to have witnessed that.
My Van Halen memories can go on and on! The band truly helped to shape me into the rock-and-roll chick I am today. They have always been, and always will be, one of my all time favorites. And Eddie will always remain an innovator and master of the guitar. You will be missed Eddie. Thank you for the memories!