The Urban Dictionary says that a rock god is “a rock artist that is so talented that he is worshipped like a god”. He has touched the masses beyond just the music. This is a statement from a lexical resource. Meaning the dictionary. But what I think of when I hear someone ask what is a Rock god. I immediately think of Eddie Van Halen.
What is a Rock god;
- A highly successful and admired (Male) rock musician.
- A musician that plays Rock n Roll music.
- Plays a musical instrument, most often a guitar.
- Is the founder of a rock band.
- Changes the course of rock music.
- A musician that is a living legend.
- Profoundly leaves a mark on history.
There is more to it, being a rock god. Take a look and delve into a legend and rock god, Eddie Van Halen.
Born to Rock
A lot of people including myself thought Eddie Van Halen was born in the USA. It seemed the stripes ran through him when up on stage playing his Frankenstrat. But the truth is Eddie was born in the Netherlands in Amsterdam.
In 1955 Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was born. And already had an advantage when it came to music as he instantly became the son of a well known Dutch jazz pianist, Jan Van Halen, Eddies dad played the piano, saxophone and clarinet. Jan Van Halen travelled the world and was a Classical musician. Eddie Van Halen’s mother was Indonesian. And that’s where Jan and Eugenia met and got married. Growing up he lived in the Netherlands.
Just seven years later Eddies family moved to the United States. There new place they would call home was Pasadena California. Eddie and his older brother Alex Van Halen both learned to play the piano when they were kids. Eddies love for music could be seen at an early age. Even though he never learned to read music. Eddie could improvise. And this ability won Eddie competitions playing the piano.
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Music Was a Common Thread
Once living in America Eddie and Alex would go on gigs with there dad. Alex played the drums and Eddie played the bass. Eddie describes growing up that music was always part of the family. As he says “a common thread”.
Jan and Eugenia Van Halen wanted Eddie and Alex to pursue a career in classical music. Follow in their fathers footsteps. But Eddie was into Rock n Roll.
Eddie Van Halen initially played the drums. He purchased a set of drums after his brother Alex had bought a guitar. After a while it was clear to Eddie Van Halen that Alex was a better drummer. So he gave the drums to Alex and picked up the guitar. This is when Eddie started to learn to play guitar. Eddie stayed in his room for hours practicing his guitar. Eddie Van Halen never took formal guitar lessons.
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The Making of a Rock god
Eddie and Alex’s formed there first band when Eddie was just in 4th grade. The Broken Combs would play at lunch time in the school cafeteria. Eddie Van Halen had his own Rock god’s he looked up to. Who would influence his playing when growing up. The biggest Rock god was Eric Clapton. Who played in cream at the time. Eddie says Eric Clapton had an effect on Eddie.
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Eddie Van Halen knew from those days of playing in the cafeteria that he wanted to be part of Rock N Roll. But Little did he know that he would become a Rock god. After all he came to America not knowing how to speak English, very little money and a dream. And look what he was able to accomplish. Eddie spoke about living the American dream when he spoke at the Smithsonian about his life. Source
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Van Halen the Band
In 1972 Eddie and Alex formed a band and in 1974 changed the name to Van Halen. They would play gigs in clubs in California. The band was signed on by Warner records in 1977. The bands first record Van Halen was number 19 on the billboards. Just a short time after there first Rock N Roll Album was released Van Halen was one of the top bands at it’s time. There second album 1984 went 5 time Platinum and the single off of the record called Jump was there number one pop single. They were nominated for a Grammy.
In 1992 they earned a Grammy for there album For Unlawful carnal knowledge. Fast forward to 2019 the band sold 58 million in the united states and made them one of the best selling artists. World wide they sold more than 80 million albums. Among their collection of accolades. The band achieved 13 number ones on the billboards. They were also ranked number 7 out of 100 on the VH1 top hard rock artists of all time. In 2007 the band Van Halen was placed into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
Eddie and Alex worked on other projects and collaborated with artists for various projects. From film soundtracks to musical collaborations. Such collaborations with artists Gene Simons, Nicolette Larson, Michael Jackson, Brian May, Sammy Hagar and many more. Eddie Van Halen was a Musician, Songwriter, Producer and Arranger.
Van Halen Billboards
Billboard 200 Albums
The Hot 100
- Van Halen
- For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
- Diver Down
- Best of Volume 1
- Van Halen 2
- Women and Children First
- Live Right Here Right Now
- Fair Warning
- The Best Worlds
- A Different Kind of Truth
- Van Halen 3
- Running With the Devil
- Tokyo Dome Live In Concert
- Can’t Stop Lovin’ You
- Finish What You Start
- Top of the World
- When its Love
- Why can’t it be Love
- (oh) Pretty Women
- Dance the Night Away
- Love Walks in
- Feels So Good
- I’ll Wait
- Right Now
- You Really Got Me
- Dancing In the Street
- black and Blue
- Hot for Teacher
- And the Cradle Will Rock
- Beautiful Girls
- Running with the Devil
- Not Enough
These are some of Van Halen’s accomplishments. But Van Halen could not have done this with out Eddie Van Halen. The band was made up of the two founders Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen. The other members were David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony. But later the lead singer was replaced by Sammy Hagar.
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Where there was still many hit songs after David Lee Roth. But the one constant and steady force is Eddie Van Halen. His unique guitar playing is what made Van Halen.
A lot of bands would fold if their lead singer had to be replaced. Which proves that the driving force of the band was Eddies guitar playing. That propelled him into a Rock god Status.
Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar Technique
Eddie Changes the course of Rock N Roll forever. He was constantly searching for that unique Rock Metal sound. In an interview with what it means to be an American, Eddie says that because he didn’t take formal guitar lessons this is why he was able to create his own technique. If he had taken guitar lessons he would not have had the unique sound that he does.
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To accomplish this unique sound was an experimentation for Eddie Van Halen. He would tear apart guitars and open amps up. And make modifications. Eddie’s style was to push the barrier. If the amp goes to 12 he would take it to 15. Eddie Van Halen could reach the pinnacle of heavy metal. Then on a dime, tone it down and play crisp clean notes. Like you can hear and see on the Hot for Teacher live video.
Eddie can play with both hands on the fretboard. And sometimes he is seen not strumming the strings, but using the tone controls back and forth and using his fretting hand to play the notes. Also Eddie claims that he may not have invented tapping, but he never heard anyone doing what he did with tapping on a guitar.
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He explains that on some Riffs that Led Zeppelins Jimmie Page was performing. He would take the same riff and move the nut up the fretboard. By placing one finger across the strings. Like a moveable nut. Which in tern moves the Riff and sound also. Then he would incorporate tapping. Eddie basically uses both hands on the fretboard when tapping. He will tap with one finger on his left hand and one on the right hand. Or his fretting hand. And this gave Eddie the edge when it came to his unique playing ability.
Eddie takes a key and extends the key with a tapping of the right hand. And uses his tapping to make licks and little pieces of solos in songs. Like that what is heard in the solo Eruption.
The Making of Frankenstrat
Part of Eddie Van Halen unique sound was taking different parts of guitars and making one great sounding guitar. He liked the body of the Stratocaster. But the single coil pickups have feed back and a thin sound. And then you have the thicker darker sound of the Humbucker. So Eddie wanted the body of the Strat with the sound of the Humbucker. He found a company that made knock off Stratocasters.
The Boogie Bodies made knock off body’s and necks of Fenders. Eddie takes the body of the Strat and reworks the body. So that a Gibson pickup can fit in it. He wired the Humbucker to the one control. Then made a pickguard to cover the remaining holes in the body of the guitar.
Then he painted the guitar black but didn’t like it. So he used tape and taped the guitar. Then took a razer blade and cut sections of the tape out. Spray painted it. And thought that it looks cool. Then later had that guitar built. After that he then made another guitar. Built it the same way, but this time added red paint instead of white.(Current Price of EVH Stripped Guitar on Reverb)
Since then Manufactures incorporated humbuckers on a Stratocaster body and also used single coil pickups.
Eddie Van Halen changed the sound of Rock N Roll. Created an era of music that others, mostly guitarists tried to emulate. Eddie’s unique style. He and Van Halen sold millions of albums, and made the name Van Halen known and loved worldwide.
He created a style and invented new techniques on and off the stage. That are used in the music industry to this day. Eddie Van Halen is an iconic Rock Star Virtuoso and to me the spitting image of what is a Rock god.
Edward Lodewijk Van Halen January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020.
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