Eddie Van Halen
It's no coincidence that Eddie Van Halen played on Michael Jackson's best song "Beat It." Van Halen took a great song; probably the closest Jackson came to Rock, and brought it home. There's a knock, then the guitar, sounding like a rusted door pushed open comes roaring out. Taking off in an explosion of notes and effects, it's the best thing on the second most popular album ("Thriller") of all time (in the U.S.).
Back in the early Van Halen days, when they were having their greatest success with covers, ("You Really Got Me" and "(Oh) Pretty Woman"), Eddie managed to shine. The Kinks original version was a sonic break through for its time. The guitar line, which mirrored by the bass was dense and heavy. Van Halen lets bassist Michael Anthony carry the riff while he feverishly dances about it. This makes the song sound lighter, faster and far less ponderous. Add to that Van Halen's hot, burning guitar solo and you've got a classic re-born. He actually sounds like he's having fun with the song. "Oh, Pretty Woman" showed he could drive a riff and still add the flourishes to update it.
Of course, Van Halen's LP "1984" was the group's breakthrough. Even in keyboard-drenched songs like "Jump" and "I'll Wait" Eddie's guitar solos stand out. He was the master of speed and high fretwork. The solos are both melodic yet forceful. But without exception, they build toward a climax that is designed to blow the listener away. On the guitar songs like "Panama" and "Hot For Teacher" the guitar anchors the song with just the right amount of excess. From "5150" check out the solo on "Dreams," another full on pyro-demonstration. His guitar work remained forceful and creative through "OU812," "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge." and "Van Halen III." Just for the record, E.V.H. won the Gibson (the guitar maker) Best Rock Guitarist Award in '97.
As often happens, musicians pick up a cause. For Van Halen it was music education in schools. Around the country budget cuts were forcing schools to drop music programs. Over the years, Eddie donated guitars and other instruments to schools as he continued to promote music education.
During a '17 CNN interview he stated that "music is such a necessity."
"It touches people's souls. Music is the universal language to me. It transcends everything."
Please see Van Halen.