25 Things You Might Not Know About Birthday Boy Eddie Van Halen
By Dave Basner
January 26, 2018
On January 26th, 1955, Eddie Van Halen was born in the Netherlands. To celebrate the Van Halen guitarist’s birthday, here are 25 things you might not know about him:
1. Eddie’s parents named him after composer Ludwig van Beethoven, giving him the middle name Lodewijk, which is the Dutch equivalent of Ludwig.
2. When he was 7, Eddie’s family moved to Pasadena, California.
3. Growing up, Eddie and his brother Alex took piano lessons from an elderly man who lived an hour away. They hated the commute but their mom would discipline them if they didn’t go.
4. Eddie was actually never able to read music and learned it just by watching and listening.
5. In 1967, Van Halen won first place in an annual piano competition at Long Beach City College. The judges appreciated his interpretation of the classical piece he played but that upset Eddie, who had thought he played it perfectly.
6. Eddie wasn’t challenged enough by the piano so he picked up the drums and practiced them for hours while Alex played guitar.
7. After Eddie heard Alex nail the drum solo from “Wipe Out,” he decided to switch instruments with his brother and learn the electric guitar.
8. One song that Eddie listened to repeatedly while learning guitar was Cream’s version “I’m So Glad.” Van Halen called Eric Clapton his main influence.
9. The first band Eddie was in was with Alex and three other boys. They were called The Broken Combs and performed at lunchtime at the elementary school where Eddie was in fourth grade. It was at that point Eddie decided he wanted to pursue music.
10. In 1972, Eddie formed a group called Genesis, but changed the name to Mammouth when he found out about the English prog rock group.
11. Starting out, Eddie had stage fright. His father suggested Eddie have a few drinks before taking the stage to help him relax. He eventually became a functioning alcoholic, but has since gotten sober.
12. Early on, Eddie played solos with his back to the audience so other guitarists couldn’t steal his move. It also was easier for him because of his stage fright.
13. In 1982, Eddie played an improvised solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” He didn’t ask for royalties on the track, doing it as a favor instead.
14. In 1994, Eddie co-wrote the riff for the song “Evil Eye” with Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Tony Martin for their album Cross Purposes. He wasn’t credited because of record company restrictions.
15. Eddie has contributed music for the soundtracks for the films Over the Top, Twister and Lethal Weapon 4.
16. In 2009, Eddie had a cameo on the season seven premiere of Two and a Half Men.
17. While Eddie popularized tapping, using his hands on the guitar neck, he’s not the one who invented it and many guitarists before him have used the technique.
18. Eddie holds two patents, one for a support that allows musicians to hold stringed instruments from the back, and one for a product that quickly changes the tuning of the low E string the guitar.
19. In 1980, Eddie met actress Valerie Bertinelli at a Van Halen concert in Shreveport, Louisiana. They got married in 1981 and had a son.
20. Like his parents did with him, Eddie named his son after a composer, calling his boy Wolfgang after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
21. After divorcing Bertinelli in 2005, Eddie married actress, stunt-woman and Van Halen’s publicist Janie Liszewski in 2009. Alex officiated the ceremony and Wolfgang was best man.
22. In 1999, Eddie underwent hip replacement surgery to repair the damage caused by years of jumping around onstage.
23. In 2000, Eddie was treated for tongue cancer, which he got rid of in 2002 following the removal of a third of his tongue.
24. In 2004, Eddie attended Dimebag Darrell’s funeral. Eddie donated the black and yellow guitar seen in the Van Halen II album inlay. It was a favorite of Dimebag’s – so much so that the rocker was buried with it in his casket.
25. Eddie’s favorite way to chill out is to sit in bed and watch reruns of Law & Order.
Happy birthday, Eddie!
Photo Credit: Getty