Edward, commonly referred to as Eddie, was born in Nijmegen, Netherlands to a Dutch father (Jan) and an Indonesian mother (Eugina). The Dutch Roman Catholic Van Halen family moved to Pasadena, California from Holland in 1962. Eddie Van Halen immediately started classical piano training and won talent competitions as a child (although during a radio interview he said that he cannot read music). Eddie claims that one of the first things his parents did upon arriving in America was to seek out a piano teacher for him and his older brother, Van Halen drummer Alex Van Halen.
Initially, Alex began playing the guitar while Eddie studied piano. According to Eddie, while he was delivering newspapers to pay for his drum kit, Alex would practice on them. It was when Eddie heard Alex’s mastery of the Surfaris drum solo in the song “Wipe Out” that he got annoyed that his brother had overtaken his ability and decided to switch and begin learning how to play the electric guitar.
Eddie was around age twelve when he started playing guitar. He was so committed to the instrument that he played it all day, every day. Sometimes, he would even skip school to stay at home and practice. Eddie claimed that he had learned almost all of Eric Clapton’s solos in the band Cream “note for note” by age 14, though in other interviews he claims that in fact he could never learn to play the solos precisely and would therefore modify them to suit his style.
In an April 1996 interview with Guitar World, when asked about how he went from playing his first open G chord to playing “Eruption”, Eddie replied:
“Practice. I used to sit on the edge of my bed with a six-pack of Schlitz Malt talls. My brother would go out at 7 P.M. to party and get laid, and when he’d come back at 3 A.M., I would still be sitting in the same place, playing guitar. I did that for years — I still do that.”
His main influence was Eric Clapton. He has also acknowledged the influence of fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth, of whom he has said: “He’s the best in my book.”
Edited by Stumpflower on 17 Jun 2006, 13:55
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