January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020
The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was a huge statue, measuring 108 feet tall, erected on the Greek island of Rhodes in 280 BC. The actual location of the original statue is disputed today, but one of the opinions on the matter is that the statue straddled the opening to the harbor of Rhodes, a foot on each side.
I grew up listening to Van Halen with my parents. I have told the story, many times, of riding to kindergarten with my dad, and asking him to play “Little Dreamer,” my favorite at the time. Hearing Eddie play at that young age, helped bring a familiarity to all music that I would hear from then on. The sound of screaming solos and chugging riffs has always been an inviting and welcoming sound to me. In the era in which Eddie played, there were great guitarists. But he turned it up! And turned Rock on its head!
Eddie was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands. His family moved to California and in 1972, he and his brother Alex, founded Van Halen with original bassist Mark Stone and singer David Lee Roth. He may not have invented the “tap style” technique of guitar playing, but he sure did perfect it! More than that, though, he was the perfect expression of one’s instrument becoming an extension of one’s self. With a perpetual grin, Eddie did amazing things, both in the studio and on the stage.
1974 – 1985: Eddie, Alex, David, and Michael Anthony (bass) delivered raw emotion and talent on Van Halen’s first 5 records, all of which have since been certified multi-platinum – Van Halen, Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, and Diver Down. The sixth record, 1984, was far more commercial than the previous records, but Eddie kept on with the kick ass riffs.
In 1985 Roth went solo and The Red Rocker, Sammy Hagar, stepped in to vocals and as a second guitarist. The band became even more successful, producing four U.S. number-one, multi-platinum records – 5150 in 1986, OU812 in 1988, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge in 1991, and Balance in 1995. Eddie introduced keyboards on the 1984 album, and carried that through this era as well. These records had a more pop-rock sound, but Eddie kept dealing out the killer guitars.
1996, Hager leaves the band and Gary Cherone (Extreme) takes vocals for Van Halen III in 1998. He leaves the band in 1999.
2003, Hagar rejoins for a worldwide tour in 2004, and leaves again in 2005.
2006, Roth rejoins and Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddies son) takes over on bass.
2012 sees the release of A Different Kind of Truth and, you guessed it, Eddie kept delivering the guitar mastery.
The Colossus of Rhodes is the perfect imagery to me, when imagining Eddie within the larger guitar community. He stood like a Colossus with one foot in Rock-n-roll and the other in what would come to be known as Metal. He stood in welcome of travelers journeying to this new form of energy. He was the bridge between the old and the new. There are giants in the land of guitarists. There are metal-gods and titans that traverse here, too. But Eddie was a Colossus that changed the art of shredding forever. With a grin and a swagger, this Colossus stands forever. Rest In Rock, sir.