The legend that changed rock and roll
The soft-spoken guitar genius fused heavy metal and hard rock into music magic.
Inside the Unbelievable life and heritage of an american icon by emily strohm But if you requested the mythical guitaricon-who once destroyed the entire seventh floor of a resort while partying with his bandmates-he’d insist he was really pret-tytame. “The remainder ofthe men,
[ that they ] make up forme. “Decades offame wouldtell another story. For 40 years that the self-taught musician-who died Oct.6 from cancerat65-garnered millions of fans worldwide and played thousandsof sold-out reveals, finally becomingone of their most influential musicians in history. His fame was massive, butat the endofhis life he was surrounded by the three individuals who mattered most to him: his wife, Janie Liszewski; his ex-wife of 20 years, Val-erie Bertinelli; as well as their 29-year-old son Wolfgang “Through all yourchallenging treatments forlung cancer, you kept your stunning spirit and impish smile,”Bertinellishared at a tribute on the dayhe died. “I will see you in ournext life my love. “This was the only ending Eddie could have wanted. “He loved everybody, but he kept his cards to himself,”says Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, his friend of 40 decades. “He was a family man.
This was the one thing which mattered. “Wolfie was the first to share the news of his dad’s deathpublicly. “Every second I’ ve shared on and off point was a present.”
That sentiment is felt by people nearest to the Hall of Fame rocker-and his millions of fans. Since the group’s scissor-kicking guitarist, Eddie-who cofounded the team with his brotherAlex-not only bridged the gap between’70s rock and’80s metal but introduced the audio world to
“fingertapping,”anow-populartechniquethat utilizes either hand to press on the strings from the fingerboard. Though henever claimedto inventthemethod, it became widelyadopted after hedebutedit onthe track”Eruption”in 1978. “He changed music,”
Says Lenny Kravitz. “He did things with the electric guitar which nobody did. “Despite being blamed for just redefining the guitar , he remained humble. Says Kiss frontman Gene Sim-
Mons:”He was conscious he’d this God-given gift,but that I never sawhim push that in anybody’s face.”
Born Edward Lodewijk Van Halen to his musician father, Jan, and mother, Eugenia, at Amsterdam, the star moved with his family to Pasadena in 1962. As kids, both Eddie and Alex learned to play the piano, but after Eddie found that the guitar, it became his only focus. In high school thebrothers shaped the band Mammoth with David Lee Roth. Two years later they added bassist Michael Anthony, changed the group’s name to Van Halen and started performing about L.A. before landing their first record deal in 1977.
It had been during the headiest days of the group’s celebrity, in 1980, that Eddie first met Bertinelli, 60, then a 20-year-old up-and-coming actress, rear – stageathisconcertin Shreveport, La.. Afterawhirl- wind romance, the couple married a year later. “I don’t think the other men like [my getting married] too much,” he told People in 1981.
“However, I love it. Finest thing I have ever done.” He found pleasure in his private life, but drama festered inside the band. In 1985, amid battles over direction and scheduling, frontman Roth acrimoniously left the group. He had been replaced by Sammy Hagar the exact same year, and the team had been reborn, with a series of No. 1 albums. (Hagar would eventually leave under similar situation in 1996, and Gary Cherone, who joined that year, departed two years later.)
Eddie’salcoholism also began to takeits toll. Still, Bertinelli remained by his side, also in 1991, following a miscarriage and five decades of attempting to conceive, they welcomed Wolfie. Both relished their position as parents, but their union was unraveling. Back in 2001, a year earlier Eddie was announced cancer-free following a two-year battle with tongue cancer, the couple announced their separation. “I love Eddie and always will, but we simply can’t live together,” said Bertinelli, who stayed close with her ex even once they finalized their divorce years after. After finding romance again in 2008 with his next spouse, Liszewski, 50, Eddie, that was in and out of rehabilitation through time, got married a final time and settled into a more quiet life. While on tour, he swapped wild nights for roomserviceandFamilyGuy marathonswith Liszewski. Performing with Wolfie was”that his greatestpride,” says Lukather. However, justas he discovered new peace, Eddie confronted a catastrophic health setback, using a throat cancer diagnosis many years back. Still, he was determined to live Daily
To the fullest as his condition quickly diminished over the last sev- eral weeks. “He wasn’t searching for sympathy,” says Simmons. “There’s fame and there’s victory, and then there is just a golden human being. Eddie was one”