Eddie Van Halen, the guitarist and songwriter who helped give the radio-rock band Van Halen its name and sound, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer.
His death was announced by his son, Wolf Van Halen, on Twitter.
“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.
He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift.”
In a band known for its instability due to a rotating cast of lead singers that most notably includes David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar — Eddie Van Halen and his brother Alex were constants, appearing on 12 studio albums that reached across five decades and sold tens of millions of copies.
Throughout the late ’70s and early ’80s, Van Halen became increasingly successful. Early hits such as 1979’s Dance the Night Away eventually gave way to the best-selling 1984 — the band’s sixth album — which spawned the chart-topping “Jump,” as well as flamboyant hits like Panama and Hot for Teacher. Peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart, 1984 was held back only by Michael Jackson‘s Thriller, whose iconic Beat It featured a guitar solo from Eddie.
Long known for his reclusiveness, Eddie battled multiple issues with his health in recent years, including hip-replacement surgery in 1999, a bout with tongue cancer in the early 2000s, a history of drug and alcohol abuse that led him to enter a rehabilitation facility in 2007, and surgery for diverticulitis in 2012.
Though the guitarist often had contentious relationships with bandmates — particularly Roth and Hagar, each of whom criticized him heavily in books and interviews — Eddie Van Halen remained extremely close with family. In addition to a lifelong working relationship with his brother Alex, he tirelessly championed his son Wolf, who joined Van Halen as bassist after the departure of Michael Anthony in 2006.
Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Eddie is widely considered one of the greatest guitar players of all time.
Eddie Van Halen was 65.