I was 10 the first time I listened to Eddie Van Halen. I was zapping through TV channels when all of a sudden a tall, scruffy-looking, long-haired rocker with a sparkling red, white, and black guitar on a local music channel caught my eye. The first thing that came to my mind was, “how can he play so well and so fast and make it look so easy?”
I am a musician and a music nerd. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a huge CD collection and I can probably name each song on each of those albums.
On Oct. 6, Eddie Van Halen, one of the musicians that made me a music nerd, died from throat cancer.
When I woke up to the news, I couldn’t believe it at first, so I Googled Eddie and confirmed it.
My heart was broken. Eddie inspired me to become the guitarist I am today, and now he is gone forever.
I have listened to rock before in the form of bands like The Clash and The Ramones, but I had never been exposed to songs as fast and loud as “Hot for Teacher” or “Atomic Punk.”
Eddie inspired me to pick up my first electric guitar. One of the first riffs I learned was Van Halen’s “Panama” and foolishly tried to learn “Spanish Fly” as a beginner. As my guitar lessons advanced, I was able to play faster than when I started, until I finally learned the famously quick “Eruption” with a much slower tempo.
When I started my first band in high school, one of the first covers we learned to play was Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away.” To this day, it’s still a song I listen to at least once a day and play at least once a week.
Today, on Oct. 7, I am listening to Van Halen’s “Jamie’s Cryin” with a bittersweet feeling.
I grieve for the passing of one of my childhood heroes, but I feel grateful for his music and his legacy. His energy will forever be with me every time I strum the chords of my guitar, and every time I hear one of his songs on the radio.