Van Halen, formed in 1972, revolutionized the rock music world with their innovative interpretation of hard rock music. They introduced a new style of guitar playing, with Eddie Van Halen’s finger-tapping technique being considered one of the most influential and inventive of all time. Hard rock was redefined in part by the band’s use of synthesizers and other unconventional rock instruments. Their explosive live performances were legendary, and their music continues to inspire and influence new generations of rock performers.
Eddie Van Halen is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock music. He revolutionized the way the guitar was played and had a significant impact on the development of heavy metal and hard rock music.
Van Halen’s playing was characterized by his use of tapping, which involves rapidly hammering the fingers of the fretting hand onto the fretboard to produce notes. This technique, which he popularized in the late 1970s, allowed him to play lightning-fast solos and create an entirely new sound. He was a true innovator and his influence on the world of guitar playing is immeasurable.
Grunge’s emergence at the start of that decade drastically altered Rock and Roll, yet many performers, like Van Halen, stayed true to their earlier influences. Eddie discussed how distinctive guitarists were, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, when they had radically separate approaches, in an interview with Guitar World in 1993. Here are three guitarists who Eddie Van Halen said were great in the 90s.
Eddie talked about Eric and said he was a great guitarist in 1993. Johnson got the opportunity to meet Eddie twice as he recalled in a memorial he tweeted shortly after the news of Eddie’s passing. The performer recalled how friendly he was at all times and claimed credit for rewriting and reshaping the Rock and Roll guitar.
Eric said, “There was a band in Austin Texas called Geneva and the gentlemen. My friend Roscoe Beck played bass in this band. It was a nice jazz band that played around town quite frequently in the late 70s. One night, I had gone down to sit in with them at the Sheraton hotel in Austin. After playing a couple of tunes with them I walked off the stage. A young gentleman came up to me and said hello.”
He added, “He was very friendly and mentioned that he was staying at the hotel and had just played a show at the Palmer Auditorium in Austin. He was in a band that had just recorded their first record. They were on their first tour of the US. I wasn’t familiar with them at this early time in their career. We had a nice chat. His name was Eddie Van Halen and it was the first of two times that I met him. I never knew him well. But I did visit with him one other time, years later after he had a number of records out and had become very successful.”
“I had been invited back to meet the band after their performance in Austin in the early 1990s. I had a nice chat with Eddie and he was once again very cordial. Probably since Jimi Hendrix, Eddie was the principal guitarist that re-shaped and re-wrote rock guitar. He left a huge and indelible mark on the evolution and contribution of great guitar playing. It’s hard to think that he’s not here anymore because he has had such an impact on guitar music. God bless him and keep him.”
Steve Vai was his very first choice. Steve Vai began his music career in the late 1970s by transcribing and playing guitar for Frank Zappa. He later joined the band Alcatrazz before launching a successful solo career in the 1980s. Vai’s innovative playing style and use of technology helped him gain a following, and he has since become known as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
When Vai was playing Van Halen songs with Lee Roth, many people could have anticipated that there might be some hatred between the two guitarists. Yet, the two held a great deal of respect for one another. They first crossed paths when Eddie, Frank Zappa’s neighbor, dropped by the musician’s home when Vai was still a member of the musician’s band.
In the early 1990s, Eddie Van Halen also praised Joe Satriani as a great guitarist. He was Steve Vai’s guitar teacher before both of them began their musical careers, which is odd given that he is only four years Steve Vai’s senior.
Van Halen vocalist was another collaborator of Satriani’s. He was part of the supergroup Chickenfoot, formed by Sammy Hagar, Chad Smith and the also ex-Van Halen Michael Anthony. He disclosed that his brother Alex had invited him to take part in an Eddie Van Halen tribute in 2021.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2020 following Eddie’s passing, Satriani reflected on the profound influence Eddie had on him. Especially when he first heard the track “Eruption”. He said, “When I first heard ‘Eruption’ come over the radio, I was in a little studio apartment in Berkeley, California. I actually had my guitar on, and I was totally transfixed. It was like hearing Hendrix the first time when I was a kid. The only difference was I was grown up and already a musician.”
He added, “I’m sure you’ve interviewed people who went on and on about how he innovated this, that, and the other thing. And he did. But he also combined everything that went before him in such a beautiful, fun way. This I know from experience, because I was his age. I’m a year younger.”
“I always considered him the greatest of my generation of players who came right after the big ones: after Hendrix, Page, Beck, and Clapton. But he did it with a smile, and that was so important at the time because there was a lot of grimacing and snarling and pretension around the guitar. It was getting very complicated.”