End of Rock’n’Roll As We Know It?
Eddie Van Halen’s Death is the End of an Era — In More Ways Than One.
He had it all. Looks. Personality. Talent. All with a successful band with massive record sales. And..oh yeah…he was one of the most influential musicians who ever lived.
EVH did something that comes along once or twice in a lifetime. He transcended the possibilities of an instrument and did things with it never thought possible. He set a new bar. And it was a high one. And he didn’t do it by being a virtuoso interpreting classical masterworks nor did he do it with an esoteric jazz ensemble breaking boundaries in harmony and structure. He did it with a rock and roll band. Van Halen’s music wasn’t intended for music geeks, it was meant to be played at parties. The message wasn’t deep. The singer was a clown. Their stage show was pure spectacle, not unlike a lot of other flashy bands. With one exception. The guy playing the guitar was a genius.
Eddie was the consummate rock star coupled with being a brilliant innovator. He played hard and lived hard. He drank and chain smoked and did drugs and looked cool doing it. And as it can be expected to do — it took its toll.
It might sound like rhetoric or platitudes to say there will never be another Eddie Van Halen, but in this case it’s more relevant than ever. The world has changed and musical virtuosos are no longer revered. Add to the fact that so many people have taken every instrument about as far as it can go. Even in the case of EVH, as great as his prowess on the guitar was and as much as it was light years ahead of anyone else, and as difficult as it may have been to even imitate some of what he did — 40 years after the release of his first album there are literally thousands of people, using his breakthrough concepts as a jump off point, who can play with comparable and superior technique. His groundbreaking solo “Eruption” astounded musicians from every corner of the planet yet you can go on YouTube today and you’re sure to find some 13 year old girl who can play it note for note. Blindfolded. But it was Eddie who did it first. And he was perhaps the last of the breed of super musicians to make such an impact.
There will always be good players. But can you name one guitar player in the last 20 years who reinvented the instrument? How about a drummer? Or a bassist, or a pianist? Nope. Lots of great players, but no innovators, no less someone doing it in a band that has hit records. Out of all the bands in the world and of billions of people, there is no one who fits that bill. Because I don’t think that bill can be filled. It could be because it’s already been filled.
So the loss Eddie Van Halen hurts on several levels. He was the epitome of extraordinary skill coupled with youthful irreverence to a degree of which us mere mortals can only hope to catch a glimmer. And now he’s been silenced. And along with his loss is the loss of much of what made up our lives.
There will be no replacement. No “next thing.” No new “fastest gun.” He put his stamp on the instrument along with a big fat PERIOD. Done. From now on, all anyone can do is study, learn, and imitate what the master has done. And do so with reverence. For a man. For a time.
It’s sad to see it all go. But it’s pretty awesome we got to witness it while it was here.
Written by and shared with us by the Freelance Writer Nelson Montana (Linkedin, Facebook) whose work can be found in the Huffington Post and elsewhere.