Eddie Van Halen, the fast-fingered guitarist who helped give hard rock band Van Halen its name and signature sound, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 65.
His death was announced by his son, Wolf Van Halen, on Twitter.
"I can't believe I'm having to write this," the statement read, "but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I've shared with him on and off stage was a gift."
In a band known for its reliable volatility — due in part to the rival eras of lead singers, David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar — Eddie Van Halen and his drummer brother Alex Van Halen remained steadfast regulars, appearing on 12 studio albums that reached across five decades and sold tens of millions of copies.
In the glorious, spandex-clad late seventies and early eighties, Van Halen's fret-torturing fingers seemingly ruled the radio-friendly heavy rock universe. Starting with the epic guitar wankery of "Eruption" and classic keg party anthems like "Runnin’ With the Devil" and "Unchained" and then peaking (commercially at least) with the monster 1984 album, EVH reigned as the undisputed king of arena-ruling ax men.
But 1984's success heightened tensions between the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth, who left the band in 1985 for a solo career. The remaining members of Van Halen regrouped around new singer Sammy Hagar, who helped the group top the charts with its next four albums: 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) and Balance (1995).
While Van Halen had reformed with Roth in recent years, Eddie had battled serious health issues, reports NPR.
Long known for his reclusiveness, Eddie Van Halen battled an assortment of issues with his health in recent years, including hip-replacement surgery in 1999, a bout with tongue cancer in the early 2000s, a history of drug and alcohol abuse that led him to enter a rehabilitation facility in 2007, and surgery for diverticulitis in 2012.
Here's a look back at just some of his memorable ax-work in classic Van Halen videos. RIP, EVH—you'll be missed.