Eddie Van Halen, the master guitarist who teamed up with his drummer brother to create Van Halen — one of the most influential and memorable “hair bands” of the 1980s — died Tuesday following a battle with cancer at age 65.
“I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning,” his son, Wolfgang, wrote in a social media post announcing the death. “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss. I love you so much, Pop.”
Details were not immediate released, but TMZ reported that he died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica after a battle with throat cancer, which he had been fighting for more than a decade.
Born in the Netherlands but raised in Pasadena, he and his brother Alex teamed up with flamboyant singer David Lee Roth and bass player Michael Anthony to create Van Halen in the 1970s.
They went on to become one of the biggest rock bands in the world, particularly following the release of their legendary album “1984.” The band pumped out energetic hits such as “Panama,” “Jump” and “Hot for Teacher.”
Infighting between Eddie Van Halen and Roth led to the singer’s departure from the band in 1985. But Roth was quickly replaced by another established rock star, Sammy Hagar, who remained with the group for a decade, continuing to pump out chart-topping albums.
Hagar eventually left the group in 1995, again following a dispute with Eddie, although they reunited in the early 2000s for a reunion tour. Roth later rejoined the group for another reunion tour, this time featuring Wolfgang Van Halen on bass.
Eddie Van Halen was consistently ranked as one of the top rock guitarists of all time, putting him in big demand. He famously provided the lead-in guitar track for Michael Jackson’s smash hit song “Beat It.”
He also had a long struggle with alcohol and drugs, contributing to the ultimate end of his 16-year marriage to actress Valerie Bertinelli. On social media Tuesday, Bertinelli reposted Wolfgang’s announcement about Eddie Van Halen’s death. On Twitter, she posted a string of broken-heart emojis.
His throat cancer has generally been attributed to long-time smoking habit, but TMZ reported that Van Halen believed he developed cancer from a metal guitar pick he used to hold in his mouth.
Eddie Van Halen is survived by his son and his wife, Janie.