Van Halen at the 45th Emmy Awards, 1993.
Van Halen in New Haven, 1978.
Van Halen (right) with David Lee Roth, November 2007.
While growing up in Pasadena, Eddie and his brother, Alex, took classical piano lessons, playing mostly improvised classical, and Eddie in particular proved to be an early musical standout. As teenagers, Eddie switched to guitar and Alex to drums, leaving classical music behind and starting a rock band called Mammoth.
In 1974, the Van Halen brothers hooked up with vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony to form Van Halen. Within a few years, the band, on the back of Eddie's signature guitar sound and Roth's equally unique vocals, had become hugely popular in the Los Angeles rock scene.
The band got a break in 1977 when Kiss bassist Gene Simmons discovered them at a local club and financed and recorded their first recording session. Soon after, Van Halen signed with Warner Bros, and in 1978, Van Halen put out its self-titled debut album, which featured the hit single "Runnin' With the Devil." The combination of Eddie Van Halen's electric guitar riffs and Roth's tongue-in-cheek antics launched the album to platinum status within six months of its release.
During the next few years, Van Halen became one of the hardest working and most profitable bands in the recording industry, releasing a string of multi-platinum albums in quick succession; 1979's Van Halen II, 1980's Women and Children First, 1981's Fair Warning and 1982's Diver Down. But true superstar status did not come until the release of 1984, which showcased the now classic mega-hits "Jump," "Panama" and "Hot for Teacher," with videos for each burning up MTV.
Despite, or because of, their newfound stardom, during this time, tension began to grow between Roth and the other band members. And in 1985, after recording his own successful solo album, Roth left the band to be replaced by former Montrose frontman Sammy Hagar. Showing a remarkable resiliency, Van Halen put out several successful albums with Hagar as frontman, including 1986's 5150 and 1991's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. In 1993, the band released its first double-live album, Van Halen Live: Right Here, Right Now.
By the mid-1990s, though, tension resurfaced. Eddie Van Halen had a history of alcohol abuse, but the new decade found him sober, and the newly clean-and-sober Eddie and the unrepentant wild man Hagar butted heads continually. IN the wake of these clashes, Hagar's last Van Halen record would be 1995's Balance. (He returned to the band briefly in 2004 for a greatest hits release and tour.)
In 2012, David Lee Roth was back in the fold, and the band released A Different Kind of Truth, their first record with Roth since 1984. In May 2015, Van Halen opened the Billboard Music Awards with Roth, performing their old hit "Panama," a performance that would serve as a prelude to the band's 2015 summer tour.
Eddie Van Halen grew up Catholic and continues to be devout.
He doesn't talk about politics much, but he issued a statement against the McCain campaign when they used his song.
Eddie Van Halen married actress Valerie Bertinelli in 1981, and their son, Wolfgang, was born in 1990. The couple announced their separation in July 2002, and they divorced four years later. In 2009, Van Halen married girlfriend of three years Janie Liszewski.