Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Brooklyn. Brooklyn Wonders, “Who was Eddie Van Halen” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Brooklyn!

Pac Man. Parachute pants. The Walkman. The Rubik’s Cube. These are all symbols of 1980s American culture. And today’s Wonder of the day is yet another icon who ruled that decade—Eddie Van Halen!

Who was Eddie Van Halen? Only one of the greatest guitarists of all time! In fact, many consider him a music prodigy. He was a master of not only the guitar, but also the piano, the cello, and several other instruments. He was also a composer who was once even compared to Johan Sebastian Bach.

Eddie Van Halen was born in the Netherlands in 1955. His family moved to Pasadena, California in the early 1960s. Growing up with Dutch and Indonesian heritage, Van Halen learned to speak both Dutch and English as a child.

Eddie and his older brother, Alex, took an interest in music from an early age. Eddie was accomplished on the piano before he ever picked up a guitar. Soon, though, he was mastering guitar solos while Alex practiced the drums.

The two would go on to make up half of the band named after them—Van Halen. It became one of the top bands of the 1980s. Van Halen put out major hits like “Jump,” “You Really Got Me,” and “Panama.” Other band mates came and went, but the Van Halen brothers remained.

As the band’s lead guitarist, Eddie Van Halen rose to fame for his unique sound and rousing stage presence. He was known for his thrilling solos on the electric guitar and for two-handed tapping. In this technique, the musician uses both hands to sound notes on the fretboard of a guitar.

Not only did Van Halen excel on the guitar—he revolutionized it. He created the Frankenstrat guitar by combining a Fender and a Gibson. He also held three patents during his life. All were for inventions related to the guitar.

Despite these accomplishments, Van Halen never learned to read music. Instead, he watched other musicians and practiced. He also struggled with nerves and anxiety during much of his life. Many believe this made his ongoing battle with alcohol addiction worse. 

In 1981, Van Halen married Valerie Bertinelli. In 1990, their son, Wolfgang, was born. The couple was together until 2002. Van Halen often played music with his son, and, in 2006, Wolfgang joined the family band. In 2008, Van Halen married his second wife, Janie Liszewski.

Eddie Van Halen was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. After treatment, he went into remission. However, the cancer returned in 2012 and spread. Van Halen passed away on October 6, 2020.

Today, Eddie Van Halen is remembered as one of the most talented guitarists of all time. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and his music is still enjoyed by many around the world.

Have you ever listened to Van Halen? Are you a fan of any other music from past decades? Eddie Van Halen is one of many giants in the world of rock and roll. Spend time listening to some of your favorites today!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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