Eddie Van Halen’s opinion on Nirvana and Cobain as a guitarist

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The rock and roll landscape underwent a transformative evolution in the 1970s, marked by the emergence of diverse sounds and songwriting styles. A pivotal moment in that era occurred when Van Halen, led by the Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex, unleashed their eponymous album in 1978, leaving an indelible mark on the music scene.

Eddie Van Halen’s remarkable technical prowess showcased on this record served as a beacon of inspiration for guitarists, sparking a trend of increasing speed in the guitar parts of hard rock and heavy metal songs throughout the ensuing decade. However, the musical landscape continued to evolve, and with the advent of the 90s, bands like Nirvana ushered in the era of grunge, reshaping the music business.

As the industry grappled with this seismic shift, veteran musicians weighed in on the new movement, and one such luminary was the late, legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen. Born in 1967, Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain was only five when Van Halen formed in 1972. Despite the commercial threat posed by bands like Nirvana, Eddie expressed his admiration for them. In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, Eddie lamented Cobain’s death and shared his thoughts on the changing music landscape.

Discussing addiction and musicians who used heroin, Eddie referenced Cobain and offered his perspective on the guitarist’s skills: “I think there are certain bands that even complain about making music. Hey, if it’s a problem, don’t do it. As much as I loved the music Kurt Cobain made, and as sad as it is that he’s not with us anymore, I can’t help thinking that what you’re doing caused you to kill yourself. I would have stopped doing it. It ain’t worth it. Stay at home and make music in your bedroom for yourself.”

When questioned about Cobain’s guitar skills, Eddie focused on the emotional impact: “It didn’t matter how good or bad he was. It was just his feeling that moved me. There’s no particular technical proficiency. But it didn’t matter. I loved his voice and his songs. It came from his heart. It was real.”

Despite the apprehension felt by many older bands during the rise of grunge, Sammy Hagar, Van Halen’s former singer, revealed in a 2020 interview with Sirius XM that they, too, were initially unnerved. Hagar recalled feeling insecure about being perceived as glam rock in the face of the grunge movement. To bridge the gap, Hagar invited Alice In Chains to tour with Van Halen, recognizing the need to demonstrate camaraderie with the newer generation of musicians.

Adding a poignant note to the Van Halen legacy, Eddie’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, participated in a double tribute in 2022 alongside ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. Invited by Grohl to join a Foo Fighters tribute for their late drummer Taylor Hawkins, Wolfgang contributed to the shows held in London and Los Angeles. This collaboration served as a fitting tribute to Eddie Van Halen, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 65, especially since the surviving Van Halen members had not reached an agreement to pay a live tribute to the iconic guitarist.

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