The bandleader was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2000, though he was declared cancer-free two years later. In recent months, however, Van Halen was reportedly battling throat cancer and flying to Germany for treatments.
Following the devastating news of his death, countless stars shared messages of mourning, remembering Van Halen as a friend, inspiration and "guitar hero."
"I'm very sorry to hear of Eddie Van Halen's passing," singer/songwriter Willie Nile said in a statement to Billboard. "Electricity flowed through his fingers and deep into his soul and he lit up the universe with it. He could express musically what most of us don't even dream of. That he shared it with all of us is his gift to us and we are all the better for it. Heaven will need to order more ear plugs. God bless Eddie!"
"“I only met Eddie Van Halen once," Colin Hay recalled to Billboard. "We shared a drink in the hallway of the Parker Meridian outside our adjacent rooms. He was effusive and most entertaining. A revolutionary musician, unique, inspired, effortless, a true master. It’s more than sad that he’s gone, but his licks will live forever.”
The Recording Academy also shared an official statement on the rocker's death. "During his legendary career, Grammy Award winner Eddie Van Halen contributed to some of the world's most iconic music. His explosive guitar playing and approach to the musical process solidified him as an undeniable force in his field and forever established his place as a true guitar hero. The world is lucky to have witnessed Eddie's genius as a guitarist, and we know he will influence and shape rock music indefinitely."
“Inductee Eddie Van Halen forever changed the vocabulary of the electric guitar," mirrored Greg Harris, president & CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in a press statement. "With blistering speed, control, and melodic feel, he perfected the art of shredding, unleashing two-handed finger tapping, dramatic whammy-bar moves, and other astonishing never-before-seen techniques. Innovative, like his hero Les Paul, Eddie reimagined the sonic possibilities of the guitar and became an inspiration for an entire generation of musicians who worshiped his sound and style. His band Van Halen kicked the American hard rock scene into high gear in the late Seventies, became rock heroes on MTV in the Eighties, and gave rise to a steady stream of shredders and trailblazers ever since.”
"The Warner Music family is devastated to hear the news of Eddie Van Halen’s passing, which is a heartbreaking loss for rock ‘n’ roll and the entire music community," Kevin Gore, president of global catalog, recorded music for Warner Music Group, added. "Without question, he was one of the greatest guitar players to ever pick up the instrument. Eddie was also a gifted songwriter and inventor and will surely be remembered as one of the most influential and innovative figures in music history. After signing with then-Warner Bros. Records in 1977, Van Halen skyrocketed to international superstardom for years to follow, topping the charts in multiple decades and earning two RIAA Diamond certified albums (Van Halen, 1984), a feat accomplished by very few artists. Warner Music will continue to honor and preserve his incredible legacy and thank him for his extraordinary contributions to both music and our company’s history. Our deepest condolences go out to his son Wolfgang, brother Alex, and the rest of his family and friends, along with his millions of fans around the world."
See reactions from former bandmate Sammy Hagar, Gene Simmons, John Mayer, ex-wife (and Wolfgang's mom) Valerie Bertinelli, Questlove and more below.
“Shocked to hear of the death of the great Eddie Van Halen. He was a consummate musician and an extraordinary virtuoso on the guitar. He leaves a giant footprint and an irreplaceable void.”
- Billy Joel