Donielle Flynn

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INGLEWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Musician Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen performs at their dress rehearsal for family and friends at the Forum on February 8, 2012 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Eddie Van Halen came from musical roots, but never learned to read music. His early life story is fascinating.

Eddie and Alex came from a musical family.  Their dad loved classical and jazz.  He played the clarinet, saxophone and piano. He played in the Dutch Air Force band until the family moved from the Netherlands to the California when Eddie was eight.

Eddie and Alex formed their first band as children, calling themselves The Combs.  Eddie started out on drums.  Stories vary, but I heard Eddie worked a paper route to pay for his drums.  Alex kept getting on the kit while Eddie was on the job until Eddie finally gave up the drums and switched to guitar.  Eddie Van Halen (much like Hendrix) never learned to read music.

Originally called Mammoth, the band had had to change their name because another band had the same name. David Lee Roth suggested Van Halen.  Eddie was against the idea.

Eddie Van Halen was much more shy than people may realize.  He didn’t want to call the band Van Halen and he got very nervous before going on stage.  Eddie’s dad suggested having a drink or two before the show to help him loosen up.

Most of what I know is from the early days, but Rolling Stone has a really great article that covers more of Eddie Van Halen’s life.  It’s worth the read.

RIP Eddie Van Halen.  You didn’t do it all perfectly, but you did play to perfection.  The rock world mourns your loss and celebrates your life. We thank you for your contributions and innovations.