Rock Candy

Wolfgang Van Halen shared a touching tribute to his father Eddie Van Halen on the second anniversary of his death.

“2 years and not a single day has gone by where you weren’t on my mind,” wrote Wolfgang. “I’m trying to do my best and hold it together but it’s just not the same without you here, Pop. I love and miss you more than you could possibly imagine.”

 

Wolfgang released his first single “Distance” about a month following his father’s death at age 65 from cancer. The single served as a tribute to the late guitar icon.

Wolfgang said before the release of the track, “‘Distance’ is a song that was initially written for the debut album, but was going to be held for a later time. As my pop continued to struggle with various health issues, I was imagining what my life would be like without him and how terribly I’d miss him.”

He continued, “While this song is incredibly personal, I think anyone can relate to the idea of having a profound loss in their own life. I never anticipated ‘Distance’ would be the first song of mine that people would hear, but I also thought my father would be here to celebrate its release along with me. This is for him.”

 

Why I Miss Eddie Van Halen More Than Certain Dead Relatives of Mine

Like everyone else in the world, I’ve experienced my share of loss. Also, like everyone else in the world, I’ve experienced my share of what I’ll refer to as “complicated loss.” For the purposes of this article, “complicated loss” is that murky situation when a relative or other prominent figure in your life dies, but your relationship/feelings about said figure aren’t very “sunshine and lollipops.”

It’s the type of situation that reminds me of one of my favorite one-liners from comedian John Mulaney.

Years before he became one of the biggest draws in the world of stand-up, Mulaney landed his first comedy special: 2009’s The Top Part. In that special, he explores his love of Law & Order, his favorite TV show. As he’s funnily touching on all of the show’s various quirks and tropes, he makes his way to how much he enjoys the character Detective Lennie Briscoe played by the late Jerry Orbach. He then hits the audience with this blunt, yet hilarious, line:

“And I miss Jerry Orbach more than certain dead relatives of mine.”

It’s a line that always makes me laugh without fail, even though I know it’s coming. It’s also a line that is seemingly top of mind for me whenever a notable death occurs in pop culture. Sadly, when part of your living comes from covering news in the world of classic rock, you have to deal with death and loss far more than you’d really like. Alas, much like Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II, this is the business I’ve chosen. As a result, I have developed the morbid coping mechanism when having to deal with covering a notable death by seeing whether or not I actually miss the dead celebrity more than certain dead relatives of mine.

I’ve covered the rock music world for 8+ years now. Many deaths have hit me very hard, but the one that hit me harder than most was Eddie Van Halen. For me, his death was the perfect storm of being a massive fan, having it happen while still in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic and also still mourning the loss of my own brother who died six months prior. Add in the fact his innovative force truly changed rock and roll, it makes sense (in my mind, at least) why I would miss Eddie Van Halen more than certain dead relatives of mine.

If you aren’t sold yet by my reasoning, here are some other reasons to support my possibly bonkers headline.

  • For someone as iconic and influential as he was, he was rather unassuming

    Eddie Van Halen was a private guy that just seemed content with blending in with the crowd when he wasn’t on stage. That was truly exemplified in this very funny moment from October 2019.

    Eddie and his son, Wolfgang, caught Tool’s show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Wolfgang shared the photo below to his Instagram from the show along with the following caption: “A guy asked my dad if he could take a picture of him with the stage behind him, having no idea who he just asked, and that was my favorite moment from the #Tool show last night.”

    Truly, it doesn’t get more “chef’s kiss” than that.

     

  • He was a champion for music education

    Eddie Van Halen was a long advocate of the value of music education in schools, so it’s not surprising he left a substantial sum in his will to be donated to music education efforts.

    The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation shared in an April 2022 press release that Van Halen left the foundation “a meaningful percentage of his estate to the organization in his will.” While an exact figure was not disclosed, Guitar World reported the amount was a “seven-figure sum.”

    The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation noted, “Before his passing in October 2020, Eddie Van Halen spent over a decade nurturing a close relationship with MHOF…The donation will enable MHOF to fulfill requests from a greater number of schools, add employees to its staff, improve the foundation’s technology and more.”

    Wolfgang Van Halen said in a statement, “Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and the work they do for music education was always something that was important to my father. I am incredibly proud to help facilitate this donation as he wished. Mr. Holland’s Opus are champions for our musicians of the future and it is my privilege to continue supporting that mission and carrying on my pop’s legacy.”

     

  • He gave back to other guitarists coming up

    Eddie Van Halen had a knack for giving back to up-and-coming guitarists. One of the greatest examples is the relationship he had with Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell.

    Cantrell became friends with the guitar icon when Alice In Chains opened up for Van Halen on their For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge tour in 1991 and 1992. Following the tour, EVH sent Cantrell a ton of gear, including two guitars and an entire guitar rig.

    “…Honestly, those two EVH guitars mean the world to me,” Cantrell told Guitar World in September 2021. “One of them was the Goldtop that went missing when I was making [2002 solo album] ‘Degradation Trip.’ Somebody lifted it out of the A&M studio. I just got it back a few years ago – a couple of AIC fans and collectors tracked it down and tried to do a sting on this kid who had it and was trying to sell it.”

    He continued, “He went dark on the first guy, who was from Florida. The second guy was a separate collector from San Diego. Between the two of them, it took about two weeks for me to get that guitar back… after 19 years!”

    Cantrell got to tell Van Halen he got the guitar back before he died and recalled the conversation they had about it.

    “I remember giving Eddie a call saying, ‘Dude, do you remember that f—in’ guitar that got stolen, the Goldtop you gave me? I got that thing back!'” said Cantrell. “And he was like, ‘No way… how long had it been?’ I told him and he said, ‘Man, I’m really happy for you, I never get any of my stolen s— back!'”

    Cantrell added, “And then I told him, ‘Man, you’re Eddie Van Halen… if I had some of your gear, I might not give it back either!’ And we laughed and he was like, ‘Yeah, okay man, well I’m happy for you and really glad you got it back!”

  • He was a musical genius, but oddly, wasn't a massive music fan.

    Eddie Van Halen didn’t do a ton of interviews, especially in the last decade or so of his life. So, when he did sit down for a lengthy interview, like the one that became a 2015 cover story for Billboard, there was always some very interesting information. This interview did not disappoint, and it came out the gate with a weird revelation: “Eddie Van Halen doesn’t listen to music.”

    Journalist Chuck Klosterman wrote, “I’d just asked if he ever revisits old Van Halen albums, but his disinterest in those records is merely the tip of a very weird iceberg: Unlike every other musician I’ve ever met, he does not listen to any music he isn’t actively making. The guitarist maintains that the last album he purchased was Peter Gabriel’s ‘So,’ when it came out in 1986. He’s not familiar with the work of Radiohead, Metallica or Guns N’ Roses. He appears to know only one Ozzy Osbourne song Randy Rhoads played on, and it’s ‘Crazy Train.’ He scarcely listened to Pantera, even though he spoke at the funeral of the group’s guitarist and placed the axe from ‘Van Halen II’ inside [Dimebag Darrell’s] casket. He doesn’t listen to the radio in his car, much to the annoyance of his wife (‘I prefer the sound of the motor,’ he says). He sheepishly admits he never even listened to most of the bands that opened for Van Halen and worries, ‘Does that make me an a–hole?’ Sometimes he listens to Yo-Yo Ma, because he loves the sound of the cello. But even that is rare.”

  • He is truly the 'American Dream'

    Van Halen is one of the greatest examples of “American Rock and Roll.” How interesting that the band so closely related to that American expression was founded by two immigrant brothers.

    In February 2015, EVH took part in the Smithsonian series “What It Means To Be American.” He sat down for a nearly hour-long interview in front of a small crowd discussing how he came to America as a young boy from the Netherlands and the obstacles he and his brother, Alex, had to overcome as immigrants.

    Before coming to America, the Van Halen brothers dealt with their share of discrimination in the Netherlands since their father was Dutch and their mother was of Indonesian decent. However, things didn’t get much better in America.

    “We already went through that in Holland, you know, first day, first grade. Now, you’re in a whole other country where you can’t speak the language, and you know absolutely nothing about anything and it was beyond frightening,” recalled EVH in the Smithsonian interview. “I don’t even know how to explain but I think it made us stronger because you had to be.”

    He later added in the interview, “Coming here with approximately $50 and a piano, not being able to speak the language, going through everything to get to where we are, if that’s not the American dream, I don’t know what is.”

     

Erica Banas is a rock/classic rock news blogger who's well versed in etiquette and extraordinarily nice.