A Pasadena Local who Became a Legend

By Rachel Koonse, LMFT, Program Director

October 7, 2020

When Eddie Van Halen’s family moved from the Netherlands to Pasadena, CA in 1962, Eddie couldn’t speak English. Living in a new place where the extent of his family’s possessions were “$50 and a piano,” Eddie began playing piano and demonstrated precocious talent. Eddie and his brother, Alex, dove headfirst into their musical studies and picked up the guitar and drums, respectively. By the fourth grade, they founded their first band, The Broken Combs, and they performed during lunch at Hamilton Elementary School in Pasadena.

Fast forward several years and countless shows at local bars and clubs, Van Halen garnered a significant fan base in Southern California. In 1977, the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth (another Pasadena local) scored a record deal with Warner Brothers. Following the debut of their first album, Van Halen, Eddie became a giant in the music world. The band went on to sell 80 million albums worldwide. Four of their studio albums reached US No. 1 and Van Halen was voted greatest guitarist of all time in a Guitar World magazine reader poll.

Eddie was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2001, and later needed to have part of his tongue surgically removed. He kept his diagnosis private and waited until 2011 to publicly share his diagnosis on his website. This first diagnosis was successfully treated, but Eddie was unfortunately diagnosed with throat cancer a few years later. Despite these devastating diagnoses, Eddie continued to have a lucrative career and meaningful relationships with his family for several years. Notably, he fostered his son, Wolfie’s, love for music, and Wolfie went on to become a bassist and played professionally with his dad. After 10 years of living with throat cancer, Eddie Van Halen died in the arms of his family on October 6, 2020.

In addition to his legendary status in the musical world, Eddie Van Halen also leaves behind a legacy of dignity amidst chronic illness. He remained an involved father and family man and continued his life’s work as a musician, leaving an indelible mark on music history.

To quote Van Halen, the cancer experience “can be a very unique and private matter to deal with.” To that end, CSC prioritizes member privacy, knowing that our groups, classes, and workshops are safe because they remain confidential. Van Halen had an incredible support system of friends and family, and lived his days fully until his last. CSC strives to be a piece of each member’s support system, and takes a page from Eddie’s book in fostering an environment that encourages all of us to live our lives humbly and fully.

Works Cited

En.wikipedia.org. 2020. Eddie Van Halen. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Van_Halen> [Accessed 7 October 2020].

Miller, K., 2020. Eddie Van Halen Thought His Tongue Cancer Was Caused From Putting Guitar Picks In His Mouth. [online] News.yahoo.com. Available at: <https://news.yahoo.com/eddie-van-halen-thought-cancer- 145800610.html?guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuYmluZy5jb2 0v&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAA BFSl6JzusqM4dnBgnBba9Ysz91dxlY8_OtK02gQA8m0oFV HsVYqqMP8gyGnJzZBPuMgLvefV3zBFDKgKOyu_SaVF1ekQ7r6pOGDQ9R7hL-o6_emXcQY W7KRLnoD5DiMSRLTjOQCqErh6uIxuBp9SlfYmmOxL T8nFhxFsPQHhomN> [Accessed 7 October 2020].

Sweeting, A., 2020. Eddie Van Halen Obituary. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/oct/07/eddie-van-halen-obituary> [Accessed 7 October 2020].