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Van Halen Says He's Cancer Free

Guitarist ready to return to making music

May 9, 2002 12:00 AM ET

Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen says he has won his two-year battle with tongue cancer. "I wanted to let you all know that I've just gotten a 100% clean bill of health -- from head to toe," Van Halen said in a statement. "I thank you for all your good wishes and prayers along the way. Now it's time to really get back to the music and fun . . . so party on and you'll be hearing from us very soon."

In May 2000, Van Halen visited the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston as an outpatient to undergo what was then described as "prevention treatment." But in April 2001, he confirmed rumors that he did indeed have cancer and was receiving treatment. "I'm sorry for having waited so long to address this issue personally," he posted at the time. "But, cancer can be a very unique and private matter to deal with."

As for the promise about getting back to music and fun, there is still no word as to Van Halen (the band)'s future. Prior to the guitarist's treatment, the group had been in the studio working on tracks for its next album, the follow-up to 1998's Van Halen III.

Former frontman David Lee Roth claimed in April 2001 that he had done some recording with Van Halen, but the band has not confirmed any reunion plans. Meanwhile, Roth has lined up a summer tour with fellow former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar. It kicks off May 29th in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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