Legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen, whose band helped define the rock genre from the late 1970s through much of the 1980s, died Tuesday following a bout with cancer, his son said. He was 65.
Wolf Van Halen called Eddie Van Halen “the best father I could ever ask for” on Twitter.
“I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long arduous battle with cancer this morning,” he wrote. “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.”
Wolf Van Halen’s mother, actress Valerie Bertinelli, responded to her son’s statement on Twitter with a series of broken heart emojis. Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen had a tumultuous relationship spanning decades until their divorce in 2007.
Bertinelli later tweeted a statement on her ex-husband’s death, noting that her life changed “forever” when she met Eddie Van Halen. The actress said she would see him “in our next life my love.”
“You gave me the one true light in my life, our song, Wolfgang” Bertinelli wrote. “Through all your challenging treatments for lung cancer, you kept your gorgeous spirit and that impish grin. I’m so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments.”
Bertinelli detailed some of the couple’s marital issues in her memoir, “Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time.” She wrote that she and her former husband struggled with drug addiction and engaged in extramarital affairs. Bertinelli was 20 when the two married after less than a year of dating.
“The priest we tapped to perform the ceremony gave us questionnaires so he could get to know us better and offer more personal words,” Bertinelli said on NBC’s “Today” show in 2008. “As we filled out the forms at home, we each held a little vial of coke.”
David Lee Roth, the band’s original frontman, paid tribute to Van Halen with a tweet and photo.
“What a Long Great Trip It’s Been,” he wrote.
Sammy Hagar, who replaced Roth as the band’s lead vocalist, tweeted a photo of the pair smiling and embracing.
“Heartbroken and speechless,” Hagar wrote. “My love to the family.”
KISS frontman Gene Simmons mourned the loss of his rock contemporary.
“My heart is broken,” Simmons wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Eddie was not only a Guitar God, but a genuinely beautiful soul. Rest in peace, Eddie!”
Another contemporary band, Aerosmith, posted a picture of Van Halen between fellow legends Joe Perry and Steven Tyler.
“Rest In Peace,” the group said, calling Van Halen a “legend.” “You will be missed!”
The band was nominated for three Grammy Awards and took home the honor for best hard rock performance with vocal in 1991 for the album “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.” It was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
“Van Halen’s jarring stage presence and virtuosic skill kicked the American rock scene into high gear,” according to the Hall of Fame. “They delivered their music with an unrelenting intensity and musicality that audiences devoured, launching them to superstardom and restoring hard rock to the forefront of the music scene.”
The group’s 1984 album, appropriately titled “1984,” included the hits “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher” — songs that dominated radio and MTV throughout the decade and are now considered rock classics.
Rolling Stone magazine named Van Halen the eighth greatest guitarist in modern music history, sandwiched between fellow legends Duane Allman and Chuck Berry.
Another guitarist named one of the greatest by Rolling Stone, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, called Van Halen an “apex talent.”
“An unparalleled titan in the annals of rock n roll,” Morello said on Twitter. “One of the greatest musicians in the history of mankind. Rest In Peace, King Edward.”
Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was born Jan. 26, 1955, in Amsterdam. He was 7 when his family immigrated to the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena, setting the stage for his rise to become one of America’s most iconic performers.
The family didn’t even speak English when they arrived in sunny Southern California, but they all shared of love of music.
“We showed up here with the equivalent of $50 and a piano,” Eddie Van Halen said in 2015. “We came halfway around the world without money, without a set job, no place to live and couldn’t even speak the language.”
Van Halen recalled that, when he was a child, his original love was for percussion. But his older brother, Alex, coveted a drum set of his — so he begrudgingly decided to pick up a guitar.
“I never wanted to play guitar,” he told fans at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2015. “I said: ‘Go ahead, take my drums. I’ll play your damn guitar.'”
Eddie Van Halen is survived by his wife, Janie Liszewski; his son, Wolfgang Van Halen; and his brother, Alex Van Halen, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with him in 2007.