Nineteenth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
When you talk about people that revolutionized guitar, almost everybody is quick to point Jimi Hendrix as number one. However, I tend to see things a little different. I still think that nobody changed guitar playing more than Edward Van Halen.
Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was born January 26, 1955 in Nijmegen, Netherlands. Although he was born Dutch, he went to America with his family when he was only 7 where his family settled in Pasadena, California. And there he grew up to be one of the greatest American Rockstars of all time.
Eddie and his brother Alex actually started playing piano, but then moved on to drums and guitar respectively. However, after playing together, they decided to switch instruments and without knowing at the time, changed the face of Rock and Roll forever.
Eddie was enthralled by Eric Clapton guitar playing in Cream and said that he learned his solos note for note. Coupled that with his natural talent, it was obvious that something very special was about to happen.
Together with his brother on drums, Michael Anthony on bass and Dave Lee Roth on vocals they formed Van Halen and became the biggest band in the world from the late seventies to the mid-eighties.
What the whole band achieved on their first album – in my humble opinion the greatest debut ever – was remarkable, but although Dave, Mike and Alex were brilliant, Eddie was otherworldly. There are rather few times when you hear something that seem to come from another planet and Eddie’s playing on Van Halen I is one of those.
Till this day, I’m still intrigued by what he does on “Eruption”, “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love”, “Jamie’s Cryin’”, “On Fire”, “I’m The One” and the killer versions of “You Really Got Me” (sorry Kinks, this is the definitive version) and “Ice Cream Man”. And I’m saying that in 2014, can you imagine what it was in 1978?
Eddie just stunned the whole Rock world with, well, everything: his riffs, his licks, his solos and specially his tapping technique. I know some people argue that tapping technique was used by a lot of people before like Steve Hackett (Genesis), Frank Zappa, Brian May (Queen) and Harvey Mandel (Canned Heat), but Eddie took it to another level.
However, let’s remember: this was only the first record. What happened in the following releases firmly established him as the greatest guitar player of his generation and (again, in my humble opinion), the greatest guitar player EVER. From 1979 to 1983 he won the Guitar Player Magazine award for best guitar player every year.
In the midst of all this, he still found time to stun the world again in 1982, with his solo on Michael Jackson’s smash hit, “Beat It”.
Throughout the eighties to mid-nineties Eddie continued to produce great music and not even his slips (Van Halen 3, anyone?) can tarnish his well-deserved reputation.
So, dear Edward, you might as well jump into the Hall Of Idols.
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life – Walter Isaacson
The Wolf’s Gift – Anne Rice
Queen – Live At the Rainbow ’74
Paul McCartney & Wings – Rockshow
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal”.
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