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Legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen dies at 65

Updated October 6, 2020 - 2:32 pm

Eddie Van Halen, the guitar virtuoso whose blinding speed, control and innovation propelled his band Van Halen into one of hard rock’s biggest groups, fueled the unmistakable fiery solo in Michael Jackson’s hit “Beat It” and became elevated to the status of rock god, has died. He was 65.

A person close to Van Halen’s family confirmed the rocker died Tuesday due to cancer. The person was not authorized to publicly release details in advance of an official announcement.

With his distinct solos, Eddie Van Halen fueled the ultimate California party band and helped knock disco off the charts starting in the late 1970s with his band’s self-titled debut album and then with the blockbuster record “1984,” which contains the classics “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher.”

Van Halen is among the top 20 best-selling artists of all time and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Rolling Stone magazine put Eddie Van Halen at No. 8 in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.

Van Halen performed in Las Vegas numerous times since at least the early ’80s, when the band played the Aladdin Theater (the room that now houses Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood) on their “Fair Warning” tour in 1981. The band’s last headlining show in town was at the MGM Grand Garden in May 2012. In a review of the show, the Review-Journal noted that the group “registered with vintage Van Halen bombast, all serrated guitar riffs, extraterrestrial soloing, double bass drumming that approximated the rumble of stampeding livestock and the band’s distinctive harmonized backing vocals.” Van Halen would also perform at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at the same venue, marking their final Vegas appearance.

Frontman David Lee Roth told the Review-Journal in January, “Ed’s not doing well,” when asked of a Van Halen reunion. In a podcast interview airing from September 2019, Roth said he had talked to his former bandmate earlier, saying, “I just called Ed to find out who the guitar tech I need to talk to is and some of the gear I need. We live in small circles here. We have the same manager, everything. The stuff you sing along with, I wrote. I’m a part-owner. It’s in the DNA.”

However, Roth dismissed returning to the stage with the guitar great. “Whatever happens with Van Halen, it’s not for me to guess. I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

Sammy Hagar, the rocker who replaced Roth in Van Halen, posted on his Twitter page, “Heartbroken and speechless. My love to the family.”

This a developing story. Check back for updates.

Review-Journal staff writers Jason Bracelin and John Katsilometes contributed to this report.

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