OPINION

On Eddie Van Halen, and measuring the value of one life in a pandemic

Cancer has claimed the life of rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen at the age of 65.
Cancer has claimed the life of rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen at the age of 65.

It starts with a tumble of toms, a plunge down the fretboard and a ground-shifting power chord.

Then it's on: Eddie Van Halen lets loose his new-age guitar technique on the world on "Eruption", off Van Halen's eponymous debut.

What follows in the next 90 seconds is a rush of intense euphoria: an unaccompanied cavalcade of superfast picking, tremolo arm divebombs and a climax of descending arpeggios as supercharged and dangerous as lightning finding its way to the ground.

It was at this moment in 1978 that the band's guitarist and co-founder Eddie Van Halen changed the world.

This was the second big bang of electric guitar (Jimi Hendrix being the first) that gave birth to the fast, flamboyant heavy metal of the 80s, and resulted in the sale of thousands of instruments - and lifelong hobbies - as people young and old tried to figure out how the hell he made those sounds.

And now he's gone, a victim of cancer at 65.

When the news broke I saw headlines calling Eddie Van Halen simply the guitarist in Van Halen. I understand the need for brevity in a headline, but that's akin to calling Nelson Mandela the former president of South Africa: He was so much more than that.

It was him playing that iconic synthesizer riff on "Jump", and providing the solo on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" that serves as a cherry on top of Jackson's intense tale of gang culture.

We've never heard or made music in the same way since we first heard EVH.

Every year we lose a lot of people that change the world for the better without much fanfare. Doctors like Li Wenliang, who first warned us about coronavirus in Wuhan, inventors like Nils Bohlin who created the three-point car seatbelt, or agronomist Norman Borlaug, father of the green revolution which modernised agriculture and may have saved as many as 1 billion lives.

This year, many more people around the world have lost loved ones that changed their world due to the pandemic, not even allowed the small mercy of being there to say goodbye.

But even so it's worth celebrating the people who receive the fame they deserve. Many lives are different for the better because of how EVH lived his, and no one will ever take that away from him or his family.

Rest In Peace.

This story On Eddie Van Halen, and measuring the value of one life in a pandemic first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.