The stunning news that Eddie Van Halen has died is just beginning to sink in. Rumors about his health problems have been circulating for years, but the guitarist fiercely protected his privacy and nobody knew the extent of his illness outside of a tiny circle of friends and family.
“He was the best father I could ever ask for,” his son and bandmate Wolfgang Van Halen said in a statement. “Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.”
Van Halen last toured in the summer of 2015. It was their third time hitting the road since David Lee Roth rejoined the group in 2007 and the set mixed early hits like “Dance the Night Away” and “Panama” with lesser-known tunes like “Light Up the Sky,” “Romeo Delight,” and “Dirty Movies.” They wrapped up at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on October 4th, 2015. Here’s video of the final encore of “Jump” from that night.
Midway through the concert, Roth spoke directly to Eddie. “The best years of my life; the high points of all my life — onstage with you, homeboy,” he said. “I will always do the half-Jesus towards you, Eddie Van Halen.”
It was a rare moment of sentimentality between two bandmates who rarely saw eye-to-eye on much of anything, though they had no way of knowing it would be their final time playing together.
When the tour wrapped, Eddie largely disappeared from the public eye. David Lee Roth resumed his solo career while Wolfgang Van Halen worked on his debut solo LP. Rumors of a grand tour with Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth surfaced every couple of years. Sadly, those rumors can finally be put to rest. Without Eddie Van Halen, it’s impossible to imagine the band continuing in any form.