On October 6, 2020 I lost my musical hero and the world lost a legend. Wolfgang Van Halen lost his father, and fittingly he is the one who made the sad and shocking announcement to the world.
While celebrities around the world made heart-felt tributes, I thought of the little things. I thought of the time I got in trouble for painting an antique table up like one of Eddie’s striped guitars, or how pre-internet I’d spend money on any magazine that had a photo of Eddie Van Halen that I’d never seen before. Every picture was something to be inspected and pored over. Is that inside his 5150 studio? Is that a guitar I’ve never seen before back in the corner? I wanted as many intricate details as I could get about the music this man was making.
Like Edward, my own father passed away a couple of years ago, also from throat cancer. He wrote a book giving detailed summaries of various political books. It was an aside from his career and daily life.
In a similar fashion, Edward delved outside of his namesake band on numerous occasions to make music with others. He often did this with little fanfare at least by “Van Halen standards”. He would appear on someone’s album, or jump onstage with them and never mention it in interviews.
While it’s too soon to speculate on any posthumous material that may be released, or if there even is much, there is a trove of seldom heard performances by Eddie to be had. Many super fans will be well aware of these, but for those who loved Eddie but didn’t necessarily delve into the wormhole here are some songs Mr. Van Halen played on that are not commonly touted. After all, when someone you cherish is gone, the one thing you wish for is just one more conversation. Hopefully you’ll find a few moments here where Eddie tells you something musically you’ve never heard him say before…
I’ve yet to read the book my father wrote. I’m saving it, because in the back of my mind I know that once I open it I get that last, one-sided conversation with him. But as long as I put it off, I know there are potential words of wisdom that I can look forward to.
If you are unfamiliar with these performances by Eddie Van Halen, maybe stretch out the experience. Listen to one a day, or just spend an afternoon devouring all of them at once. Heck, we all process loss in a unique way.
“Eastern Bloc” by Thomas Dolby. Eddie plays the solo on this song from the 1992 album Astronauts and Heretics.
“Lost Boys Calling” pairs legendary film scorer Ennio Morricone with Roger Waters and Eddie Van Halen. Talk about a meeting of heavyweights!
In 1984 Ed joined Patty Smyth and Scandal onstage to perform their song “Maybe We Went Too Far“.
The same year, he joined singer John Waite to add guitar punch to the songs “Wild Life” and “Head First”.
Eddie is all over Brian May’s 1983 Star Fleet album. In this video for the title track, we hear Ed solo over footage of a giant robot battling tanks Godzilla-style. What’s cooler than that?
Mr. Van Halen’s score for the film “The Wild Life” was never officially released. But if offers great glimpses into where his playing was going towards the end of the David Lee Roth era before he delved more fully into keyboards.
One day the family may decide, when the time is right, whether or not to release any unheard gems from the vaults. I sincerely hope they do as I want to selfishly devour each note, every noise. Whether it is completed songs or the product of late-night studio tinkering, I just want another glimpse into that unique and wonderful musical mind.
Goodbye Ed. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything…