Eddie Van Halen was the heir to Hendrix, fusing technique with glorious popOctober 7, 2020
Van Halen, who has died aged 65, didn’t use his skills to mindlessly shred – he wrote huge pop songs, and made a new generation fall in love with the electric guitar
Think of Eddie Van Halen as a time traveller as much as a guitarist, someone who saw the future and fetched it back into the present. “What Eddie Van Halen did was reinvent the electric guitar,” says Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott. “He took it to the next level. He did what Hendrix did in 1967. He made people start listening again.”
He was far ahead of the times, in fact, that his playing could be used to symbolise something unearthly: it is him playing on the cassette that Marty McFly uses to convince his future father he is an alien in Back to the Future – a burst of Van Halen’s squalling, squealing playing, then the words, “silence, earthling!” In 1985, that was a joke all the watching audience understood. Those other players? Yeah, they shred. But Eddie? He’s one step past that.