Edward Van Halen (1955–)
Eddie (as he is best known) and his brother Alex were born in Holland. When both boys were young, the family immigrated to the United States and settled in Southern California. Both parents loved music, and both brothers began training in classical piano at the age of seven. But Eddie wanted to play rock-and-roll. The brothers bought instruments that the other would wind up playing. Eddie bought himself a drum set, and Alex began taking flamenco guitar lessons. Alex would play Eddie's drums so much that he soon became the better drummer. So Eddie decided guitar would be his instrument of choice. And what a choice it was.
Van Halen taught himself to play by listening to records and copying what he heard. Eric Clapton was his main influence, and in no time, Eddie was able to play every one of Clapton's solos. After high school and a few bands, the Van Halen brothers eventually met David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony, and the four of them formed a band called Mammoth. The name didn't last long as there was another band using it, so they decided to use the last name of the brothers — Van Halen.
Ted Templeton, a Warner Bros. Records producer, caught Van Halen's act at a club one night and signed them immediately. When their self-titled album debuted, it featured a solo instrumental called “Eruption.” That piece of music had guitarists scratching their heads for years. It was loud, artistic, and beautiful all at once. The entire record is a guitar tour de force led by Eddie's guitar riffs and the singing of David Lee Roth. The signature guitar songs are long, but they are all worth learning. These songs include “Jump,” “Mean Streets,” “Little Guitars,” “Runnin' with the Devil,” “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher,” and many more.
Van Halen is known for playing a guitar of his creation, which he called a “Frankenstrat.” The guitar consisted of a Carvel Stratocaster-type body, a vintage Gibson pickup, a Fender tremolo bridge, and a single volume control. The single volume control came to be because of Van Halen's lack of electrical knowledge — he didn't know how to wire multiple circuits and so made the simplest circuit he could.
The very essence of a guitar god, Eddie Van Halen redefined the rock guitar technique and changed the sound of the guitar in the early 1980s. He is one of the most-respected and best-loved guitar players of his generation, and is now mentioned among the greats like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. His fiery solos soon became known for tapping, a technique in which he tapped the fret board with his playing fingers while making notes with his fingering hand. His talent and skill are beyond question.