Eddie Van Halen Is Dead — Throat Cancer Claims the Guitar God at 65

Eddie Van Halen in 2015 (photo Laurence Faure CC by 4.0)
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Eddie Van Halen in 2015 (photo Laurence Faure CC by 4.0)
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Eddie Van Halen in 2015 (photo Laurence Faure CC by 4.0)

Rock and guitar legend Eddie Van Halen passed away today at age 65 due to complications stemming from throat cancer.

Guitar god and rock legend Eddie Van Halen passed earlier today after a multi-year battle with throat cancer. The Dutch-American rocker pioneered a high-powered, highly-technical and attitude-filled style of rock with Van Halen, a band he formed in the early 70s with his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen.

The band’s music, performances, and overall attitude were infused with electricity, attitude, and relentless energy, not to mention acrobatic, over-the-top stage performances. Incidentally, those acrobatics took a toll on Eddie Van Halen’s body — with hip problems and other stress-related injuries cooling the insanity — but that wasn’t what ultimately claimed Eddie’s life.

Eddie Van Halen first revealed that he was battling throat cancer in 2019. After a six-year battle, the illness finally claimed the rocker’s life earlier today at age 65.

The news was confirmed by Eddie’s son, Wolf Van Halen.

“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,” Wolf wrote.  “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift.”

Strangely, Eddie Van Halen also battled tongue cancer, which he kicked in 2002.  The reason? One theory is the way Van Halen held his picks. “I used metal picks – they’re brass and copper – which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer,” Van Halen once shared. “I mean, I was smoking and doing a lot of drugs and a lot of everything. But at the same time, my lungs are totally clear. This is just my own theory, but the doctors say it’s possible.”

The smoking and drinking were also a fairly regular thing in Eddie’s life, along with ample doses of ‘everything’ imbibed for decades.  At one stage, Van Halen admitted to having a complete addiction to alcohol, and being unable to properly function without drinking.  By 2008, Van Halen claimed he’d gone sober and completely kicked the habit.

But those earlier vices probably exacerbated Eddie’s lung cancer — though strangely, heavy-abusing rockstars have been known to live surprisingly long lives. In the case of Eddie Van Halen, 65 is too soon — but long enough to thoroughly rewrite the face of guitar-playing, songwriting, and rock n’ roll itself.

R.I.P. Eddie Van Halen (1955-2020).

2 Responses

  1. Angelito

    I used to see him at the Hughes Market near Coldwater Canyon around 2:30 a.m. on my way home from club gigs around LA. Had my guitar in a gig bag and he was always nice and said hello.

    He deserved and earned every ounce of his success.

    • Will

      He was the nicest guy. I visited 5150 back in the late 80’s once. He an Alex were really welcoming and friendly. Eddie definitely had an aura about him. Every time I hear some of his solos (Beat It, specifically), I’m still amazed at the creative genius.