Keith Urban was among the musicians who turned to social media to tribute Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen after the news broke of his death on Tuesday (Oct. 6). The guitarist praised Van Halen’s originality, saying the news of his death “hit me hard.”
The rock guitar maestro was widely acknowledged as one of the most pioneering guitarists in rock music history. His trademark amalgam of flash techniques including rapid-fire picking, finger tapping — a technique in which he extended his reach across the fingerboard of the guitar by fretting notes in extended phrases with the fingers of his right hand on a single string — as well as his tasteful juxtaposition of blues scales and classical modes set him apart from any other guitarist of his generation and launched an endless parade of imitators who borrowed from techniques he appeared to have largely invented out of thin air.
Van Halen’s electric guitar solo showpiece “Eruption,” from Van Halen’s 1978 self-titled debut album, re-wrote the rule book for what was possible on electric rock guitar and served as the template for entire subsequent generations of aspiring players.
“There are lots of great guitar players in the world, but very VERY few true innovators,” Urban writes on Instagram alongside a photograph of Van Halen onstage in his glory days. “Players who seem to have arrived from a far distant planet, and who bring a completely new color to the rainbow. Eddie Van Halen was this and so much more.”
Aside from Van Halen’s pioneering work in finger tapping, Urban observes, “you had a player with extraordinary touch, tone, and a rhythmic pocket and bounce that floated like Ali in the ring. He was a master of complex solos that spoke to non-musicians…THAT IS HARD TO DO. The reason was the exquisite melody in his heart and the joy in his soul of playing FOR people — and it came through like a ray of sun we ALL felt. I say a prayer today for his family and friends … and from players like me, all over the world who never got to meet him, I say THANK YOU EDDIE. WE LOVE YOU !!!!!!!”
Van Halen had fought cancer off and on since 2000, when he had one-third of his tongue removed due to the disease, according to Ultimate Classic Rock. He was declared cancer-free in 2002 but was later diagnosed with cancer in his esophagus in 2011.
The guitarist’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, revealed the news of his death at the age of 65 in a post to social media on Tuesday.
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