"Eddie Van Halen Shredding His Guitar @ 'Eruption' - Van Halen Concert" by Anirudh Koul is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Today's post is an odd one. And longer than usual.
It does not relate, exactly, to California fun, to writing, or good eats on the peninsula.
However, it does equate with creativity and writing and allows for some catharsis. Writing is my way of expressing thoughts and feelings that I might not otherwise be able to.
As I write this, I'm still reeling from the terrible loss of one of my heroes, and arguably the best rock guitarist this world has ever seen. Eddie Van Halen left us for the great gig in the sky on October 6th. He was 65 years young.
Opinion: Eddie Van Halen changed rock music with his signature guitar style
Yeah, I used to play guitar, too, and like so many others in my age group, wished I could be Eddie, like I wished I could be Jimmy Page, Clapton, and Jeff Beck. I spent hours trying to work out Stairway to Heaven and other guitar-heavy tunes on my ax because I knew there was no way in hell I would ever be able to figure out what Eddie was doing.
I remember when Van Halen first took the world by the short hairs and flung it around. It was with their first album. Me and my pre-teen friends were convinced they were possessed by the devil. How else could David Lee Roth move like that? How could Eddie play those elaborate runs from another space and time?
As I got older and wiser, paid attention to what Eddie was doing, to what other guitarists were saying about him, and watched him play (not live, unfortunately), I realized that he was possessed with a rare gift. He played smiling, was so alive with a guitar in his hands, and he could make that baby sing, cry, laugh, and break your heart all with the same monstrous riff.
Yesterday, I was driving to the library to pick up a book. It's a 45-minute drive. I decided to travel down memory lane with the music of Van Halen. While listening, I was elated. So many of the tunes are part of my DNA after hearing and singing to them for more than half my life. There's no way for me to hear such tunes as "Running with the Devil," "Jamie's Crying," "Dance the Night Away," and my personal favorite, "Don't Talk About Love," without wanting to roll the window down and sing at the top of my lungs, jumping up and down in my seat while I'm supposed to be driving the car! It transported me back to a time when rock and roll -- and music in general -- was everything to me.
Alone in my room, with nothing but my guitar and the music on my stereo to guide me, I'd spend hours trying to work out my favorite songs. I got a lot of them down, even played in bands at school and with friends, but never took that extra step, never even tried to make it as a professional musician.
I am nothing like EVH -- and I am totally like him. That's probably what a lot of fans are thinking, right now. He had a way of making you feel like you were included when he was playing. That smile, that waggle of the head, like there was a joke somewhere and we were all in on it, together. He was the guy that, despite his flaws (because we all have some), you wanted to party with the most and were always invited.
It is sad and tragic when our heroes have to leave us. Eddie will live on in his music. I think he would be overjoyed to know that the music gives us pleasure despite his departure. It embodies what he was about. At the very bones, he was a guy who loved music, who loved making it. I can imagine him as a kid sitting alone in his room, listening to his heroes with his guitar in his hands, trying to work it all out.
Thank you, Ed, for going that extra step and beyond, for sharing your gift with the rest of us. I promise to always get up and dance; or seat-boogie in my car and sing at the top of my lungs with all the windows down, whenever I hear your tunes -- and I know you'll be smiling.