That’s a traditional birthday greeting in his native Dutch to rock guitar god Edward Lodewijk “Eddie” Van Halen, born January 26, 1955. Dad was a musician and gave Eddie that middle name, the Dutch equivalent of Ludwig, to honor Beethoven. Likewise, Eddie’s brother Alex got middle name Wolfgang to honor Mozart. Eddie and then-wife Valerie Bertinelli carried on the family tradition, naming their son Wolfgang Van Halen.
The family up-rooted itself and moved to America, the land of opportunity, when Eddie was 7, settling in Pasadena, CA. They had little in the way of possessions other than an old upright piano. They lived in a house with two other families. From the beginning, though, there was music. Eddie and Alex took classical piano lessons and Eddie, despite never learning to read music, became accomplished enough to win several local competitions. Blessed with a great ear, he could figure out how to play anything just by listening. Piano failed to hold his interest. When Alex bought a guitar, Eddie got himself a drum kit. Yep, each brother started playing rock music on the instrument the other would end up mastering in the Van Halen band.
Eddie’s main guitar influence was Eric Clapton, whose Cream riffs he learned note for note, but says his style is more in the reckless abandon style of Jimmy Page. He’s famous for playing the neck of the guitar with both hands, "tapping", creating what I’d describe as a “Flight of the Bumblebee” effect. He is ranked in the top handful of guitarists by every publication in rock music. Eddie is also known for his innovations and modifications to guitars and amplifiers to create his signature sound.
Eddie is also known for successfully overcoming substance addictions and tongue and esophageal cancer. He describes his life on the road being spent in hotel rooms drinking vodka and using cocaine to fuel his creative engine. Despite heavy smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, he maintains that the cancer may have been caused by holding his brass/copper guitar picks in his mouth while surrounded by electromagnetic fields from amplifiers and such. Fortunately, he his now cancer free, sober, and once again making music – touring last year with his brother, son and that guy, Dave.
Happy 61st birthday to Eddie Van Halen.