Eddie Van Halen’s Music Helped Me Grow Up in Duluth and His Death Was Crushing
*This piece was originally written on October 6, 2020, the day we lost a legend.
On Tuesday, October 6, 2015, Sasquatch signed on the air for the first time as Sasquatch 106.5. I chose Eddie Van Halen to provide the first song we'd play.
Our first song was Eddie Van Halen's 'Eruption', followed by Van Halen's 'You Really Got Me', just as they're played on Van Halen's debut album. Starting Sasquatch with that incomparable one-two punch was the easiest decision I ever made working in radio, especially for a Classic Rock station that would focus on newer classic rock sounds and attitude. With all due respect to the cool vibe of The Doors and the legendary licks of Keith Richards, Van Halen is our sweet spot.
Who would think that literally 5 years to that day, we would be saying goodbye to Eddie Van Halen, the man? A man who without question changed rock and roll as only a small handful have the ability to do. A man who could kick complete ass on guitar, yet do it with a smile.
I've never hidden my love for Van Halen. Not since I first heard them when I was in 7th grade, a story I've always included in my bio:
In 7th grade at Washington Junior High, my life would change. A kid had a copy of Van Halen's "Fair Warning" that his mom made him sell because it had swearing on it. Sold! I gave him $2 and a lunch ticket for my first Van Halen cassette. That was my gateway into all things Van Halen and rock.
I would listen to Van Halen on my Sony Walkman as I fell asleep, listening to every nuance of every song. At Washington Junior we had an art class where we could design t-shirts, I designed mine to feature the Van Halen logo. In shop class I made a wooden game and made sure write "Van Halen Rules, Culture Club Drools" on the bottom. Hey, I was a kid what can I say? My notebooks were filled with my sketches of the Van Halen logo and my bedroom walls were covered with the band (and maybe a shot or two of Tawny Kitaen).
Even as a grown man, I still have Van Halen stuff everywhere. I'm writing this right now in my Van Halen lion logo t-shirt (fans can instantly picture it). I have an Eddie picture and 5150 license plate in my man cave and I have Eddie in my office at the radio station, just to name a few items. I'm not a crazy fanboy, I just appreciate the influence he and the Van Halen band had and continue to have on my life.
I never got into the Dave versus Sammy debates that Van Halen fans always seem to get into. To me, they were different bands with different vibes and they both played a huge role in my life growing up and still do. The bottom line is that Eddie Van Halen was the driving force in Van Halen, whoever the singer was. He, along with his brother Alex, created a sound, an energy and an attitude that will live forever.
While I never saw the original lineup in concert, I was fortunate to see Van Halen 5 times in my life. My first time was the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge tour, then again on the Balance tour and another time with Sammy when they released a 'Greatest Hits' album.
In 2007, I finally got to see Van Halen with David Lee Roth when they made a tour stop at Target Center. Even though Michael Anthony wasn't in the band, it was a magical night for me. My fifth and final time seeing The Mighty Van Halen was again with David Lee Roth fronting the band, supporting their last album 'A Different Kind Of Truth'.
While I missed Michael Anthony those last two shows, it was really nice to see Eddie get to tour with his son Wolfgang Van Halen on bass. I think having Wolf on the road with him helped keep Eddie away from the demons that had entered his life towards the end of the Sammy era.
Sadly, it was Wolf who broke the crushing news to the world that his dad, and our hero, had died at just 65 years old. Damn.
Rest in peace, Eddie. Thank you for all the riffs, the smiles, the leaps and all the amazing memories that only a true legend can provide.