And then you wake up in a world in which Eddie van Halen is no more. Like this year was not already strange and f*cked up enough. The fact that even musicians who, responsible for the soundtrack of your life, are bound to an appointment with the Grim Reaper, as if they were ordinary mortals, remains unabatedly disturbing. It plays one’s mind to no end, it makes one face the times beyond one’s own time, it makes one stop to function, not able to do the simplest of jobs. The death of a rock god lay bare that connection with music that is often more stronger, more intimate than the connections one has with spouses, friends and family. Because the music is always there. Unconditionally. It’s there for joy, sure, but it also keeps a mind in balance, it can be an invaluable partner that can get you through a difficult time. It triggers the imagination in unspeakable ways.
Lost for words.
Everything passes eventually but Music is so very present tense. And then being in a world where he is not in. Don't let the party antics of Van Halen's front men (Sam & Dave) fool you, Eddie van Halen's guitar tone was the heaviest thing in the known universe. (Play Romeo Delight and play the Annihilator cover from trash metal shredder Jeff Waters to prove a case in point). Pyro-technics, two-hand tapping and the trademark solos aside, the secret of EVH was in the rhythm, in the groove, in the heavy-metal-flamenco-style delivery of his licks. Never ‘just’ a barre chord or a mere repetition of riffs. Delivered with a right-hand attack, with his peculiar way to hold a pick, that burned strings and eardrums alike. (The quality of his rhythm work that, when Hagar became Van Halen's frontman and the songs more conventional, only got more prominent because Hagar "didn't want to sing over guitar solos". Bless Roth for songs like Hot For Teacher and As Is; riff clusters from which songs with lyrics are made. Chuck Berry on steroids. Pure gold because virtuosity is great but you carry it much better with you when you can sing along with it.)
EVH was a musician that escaped the realm of the instrument he was playing (the notion that we lost the "Mozart of our times" is made more than once these days); he reimagined the electric guitar as a creator of sound. There is solace in good music, in inventive musicianship and EVH supplied that, in his own unique, idiosyncratic style, in large amounts. When I was young I wanted to be Him because for a child there is nothing more exiting than a big toy and in the hands of a rock god (how the hell is he doing that?), an electric guitar becomes the biggest toy of all - a magic wand with divine possibilities. Suffice to say that some dreams remain dreams. I often did not knew what I wanted in and from life but playing the air guitar? Always! Infinite pleasure in gesticulating, in dancing with your arms in thin air. Inexplicable freedom in expanding the mind with the idea that everything in life can be overcome, can be dealt with. Godly rewards from the fact that one can be, if only for the duration of a song or guitar solo, be bigger than life. We still have the music to revive dreams of old, as a gift for the ages, but His demise, like Neil Peart earlier this year, is hitting hard. Very hard.
- Wouter de Moor