Eddie Van Halen’s former wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli, posted a touching tribute last night to the man who defined heavy metal guitar, revealing that she and the couple’s son, Wolfgang, were by his side when he died.
Van Halen and Bertinelli were married in 1981, separated in 2001 and divorced in 2007. They had their son, Wolfgang, in 1991, who would later go on to fill Michael Anthony’s spot in Van Halen on bass at just 16 years old.
Bertinelli posted the following message last night on Instagram:
“40 years ago my life changed forever when I met you. You gave me the one true light in my life, our son, Wolfgang.
“Through all your challenging treatments for lung cancer, you kept your gorgeous spirit and that impish grin.
“I’m so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments.
I will see you in our next life my love.”
Eddie Van Halen was born in Amsterdam in 1955. He started Van Halen with his older brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, in 1972. The band’s eponymous 1978 debut, which also included singer David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony, was a critical and commercial smash hit, with particular attention given to Eddie’s guitar playing. He would go on to become one of the most imitated guitarists of all time and is largely credited with inventing the two-handed tapping technique that would go on to dominate heavy music guitar leads for decades.
Roth would eventually quit Van Halen, who would go on to sell even more records with their new singer, Sammy Hagar. After splitting with Hagar in the ’90s, the band has something of a tumultuous history, which included multiple reunions with Roth and Hagar and a short-lived stint with Gary Cherone (Extreme).
Van Halen’s last album, A Different Kind of Truth — which featured Roth on vocals and Wolfgang on bass — was released in 2012. They completed what would be their final tour in October of 2015.
Eddie was diagnosed with tongue cancer about 20 years ago and had part of his tongue removed in 2000. Eddie notoriously blamed his cancer on a metal guitar pick he used to use, which he would hold in his mouth, despite being a noted heavy smoker for decades.
Rumors of Eddie Van Halen’s recent health issues began to percolate last year. In this radio interview, David Lee Roth offered the following curt statement when asked about Eddie’s health:
“I hear all the same rumors that you do and it’s not my place to guess.”
Later, radio personality Eddie Trunk asked Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, who was good friends with Eddie, about Van Halen’s health. Lukather replied:
“I think they’re on a hiatus, there’s been some health issues that they’re dealing with and stuff like that. We’re older guys now, and to go on the road requires a lot of extra effort in terms of – as a human being. I don’t think there’s any drama issues that are keeping them from working. I’m not the guy to say anything, I love those brothers so much and we’ve always had a great relationship. I’m a big fan and also adore them as human beings.”
An October 2019 TMZ report, which claimed “sources with direct knowledge,” claimed Eddie had throat cancer and had been flying back and forth to Germany for the previous five years to get treatment. The report stated that “for the most part” the treatment had been effective.
In late 2018, rumors that Van Halen, fronted by Roth, would reunite with Michael Anthony for a summer 2019 stadium tour including Yankee Stadium picked up steam. Anthony then revealed he hadn’t spoken directly to the Van Halen brothers since 2004 but confirmed he had been contacted about the reunion. The tour never came to fruition.
MetalSucks’ deepest condolences go out to the Van Halen family.