Brilliant guitarist Eddie Van Halen, the driving creative force behind the hard rock band that bore his name and gave us the best rock song for kids of all time, died on Tuesday. The Amsterdam native passed at the age of 65 after a decade-long battle with throat cancer. It’s a testament to the impact of his life and work that so many people took to social media to grieve and celebrate him.
Van Halen’s Twitter bio read “I do music too!! Like Wolf!!” which is about the most endearing thing imaginable. It was a testament to the bond he shared with his son, Wolfgang, who called his dad “the best father I could ever ask for” in the heartbreaking note he posted to Twitter.
Van Halen’s ex-wife, actress and TV host Valerie Bertinelli, also expressed her sorrow on Twitter.
Music critic Steven Hyden summed up Van Halen’s musical identity as a virtuoso who has fun, a talented musician who also knew how to make joyous music, which undoubtedly is why he’s being so fondly remembered by so many fans.
Van Halen’s bandmates David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar are famously not the best of friends, but they were united in their grief at his passing.
Beach Boy Brian Wilson, whose musical oeuvre is pretty far removed from Van Halen’s sound, still recognized another great musician when he saw him.
Lenny Kravitz wrote that “Heaven will be electric tonight” while sharing a particularly joyful photo of Van Halen, mid-onstage leap, holding his iconic red, white, and black guitar.
Two stories in particular made the rounds on social media, each delightful in its own way. The first is the story of how Van Halen came to play the famous guitar solo on “Beat It” and, without asking permission from Michael Jackson, rearranged the entire middle section of the song.
The second memorable anecdote is the time Van Halen showed up at Fred Durst’s house in an assault vehicle to take back his guitar and amp at gunpoint.
But maybe the coolest thing that surfaced as a remembrance of Van Halen is this diagram from a patent he filed for a “musical instrument support” that would let the player “create new techniques and sounds previously unknown to any player.”
Van Halen’s name is on multiple other patents, including two new kinds of humbucking guitar pickups and a “tension adjustment mechanism for a stringed musical instrument,” and a guitar peghead. And it’s fitting than a guy who invented a joyful, heavy sound and an incredibly entertaining onstage persona was also a literal inventor.