• a man holding a guitar

      Eddie Van Halen (Photo – National Museum of American History)

      I went to John Muir High School with David Lee Roth, and we ran in some of the same overlapping circles of students, always seeking for meaning in the confusing adult world.

      By Christopher Nyerges

      It was through David that I got to know Eddie Van Halen and the band. Eddie attended Pasadena High School on the other side of town, so we only saw Eddie and the band on the weekends, or when the band was practicing in a padded back room up on Maiden Lane.

      Eddie was much more than an entertainer. He was an artist, yes, but he was also a detailed technician.

      When the group was still a teenybopper band playing for beer money in local backyards, no one ever believed the group would hit the big time. When we sat around talking about the things that high school people talked about, the talk would get around to Van Halen, and to Eddie.

      I recall one conversation when a friend was describing how Eddie was so good on guitar that he could exactly replicate Led Zepplin, and others. Eddie was good. Everyone knew it. Regardless of what school mates believed about the possible fate of Van Halen, everyone recognized that Eddie Van Halen was not just good, but exceptional.

      Eddie was born on January 26, 1955, and his family moved to Pasadena, California when he was 7 years old. He and his brother Alex had a love of music and went on to make music history. You can read all about Eddie on his Wikipedia page!

      hand wriitten invitation to a house party

      A hand written flyer to a local house party in Pasadena, circa 1974 (Photo – Jack Van Furche’)

      My personal interactions with Eddie were brief and spotty. I was part of one of the broad circles of various circles that interacted and brushed against each other at parties and campouts. We watched and listened to Van Halen at their practice sessions, and at small venues in the pre-fame days.

      My role was mostly photographer, snapping shots at the Cucamonga Connection, at the Pasadena Civic, and in backyards. David Roth always seemed to take the center stage and was the idol of all the teenage girls. Certainly, Alex the drummer kept the musical composition tightly woven with his technical mastery.  Still, the key magical ingredient was the artistry and mastery of Eddie, and everyone knew it. There would be no Van Halen band without Eddie.

      Though David seemed to do most of the talking and singing, Eddie did most of the smiling. Gregarious, positive, always reaching for the stars.

      Though I’m sure all the band members deeply aspired to their fame, I feel that Eddie played for the pure love of it, for the manifest expression of excellence with no rival in recent memory except possibly Jimi Hendrix.

      After their breakout into fame, I barely saw Eddie and David and the band anymore. I’d read about Eddie from time to time in the news, or on-line, and never knew what was hype and what was accurate, and what was just part of the myth. Now, it’s all part of the mythology.

      Eddie, we’ll miss your smile and your genius musicality. May your journey be full of peace.

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      1. Margie Powers says:

        I have several memories of Eddie, but mostly like Christopher they are related to the big parties and concerts in the park, shared friends, etc.
        But one night I was hanging out with a few friends in my converted garage studio house listening to Jackson Browne, when there was a knock on my door. I was surprised to see Eddie and Alex, maybe Dave and a few other people there. They heard that there was a party at my house so we made it happen. Low key, very different music than they were used to hearing on a Friday night. Eddie went through my album collection and spun some music on my very funky turntable (I had to put a nickle on the arm so that records didn’t skip). A rare weekend night where they didn’t have a gig. But we all chilled out and had a nice time.
        That was what Pasadena was like then. “Where’s the party” was the weekend question and word of parties traveled fast by word of mouth. It was a for sure thing that you would see your friends at those places. It was allot of fun for sure.

      2. Noel Santos says:

        A great read. Well said about a true Virtuoso.

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