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Eddie Van Halen took the guitar to a whole new level, says Genesis guitarist

The world of music has been paying tribute to Eddie Van Halen (AP)
The world of music has been paying tribute to Eddie Van Halen (AP)

Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett has described Eddie Van Halen as a guitar “supremo” who took the instrument to a “whole new level”.

Van Halen died on Tuesday aged 65 after a “long and arduous” battle with cancer.

Hackett, 70, is credited with pioneering a “tapping” technique during the mid-70s that the late guitarist would eventually become famous for.

Music – Genesis fly out for US Tour – 1974
Steve Hackett with Genesis (PA)

He told the PA news agency: “He was tremendously good, a very explosive player. His solos were full of surprises. Obviously he had fabulous technique and timing. He just instinctively understood what guitars could do and pushed the envelope further.”

He added: “Eddie took that tapping technique and he took it to a whole new level. I think of him as el supremo in the tapping department. He’s the guy.

“Somewhere between whatever I came up with and what he developed you have something that informed not only rock music but pop music and all the rest.”

The Progressive Music Awards 2014 – London
Steve Hackett (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Van Halen said he first came across the high-speed, two-handed tapping technique while attending a gig by progressive rockers Genesis in the mid-70s.

Hackett urged fans of Van Halen to honour the late musician.

He said: “Unless there is a guitar heaven where he is able to function unimpeded, it’s up to the rest of us to take what he demonstrated and showed, and not try and best it, but try and honour it.

Obit Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen in 1984 with Michael Jackson (Carlos Osorio/AP)

“I honour him in my heart and I lament the fact that we never actually met.

“I had hoped one day to say, ‘Thank you for that, that was astounding’.

“It is rather lovely when you do get to meet people who you are incredibly impressed with who are incredibly impressed with you. It’s the most natural thing in the world.

“There will be a lot of guitarists who will be feeling the effect of a broken string today.”

Eddie’s son, Van Halen bassist Wolfgang, announced news of his death with a statement on social media.

He said: “I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning.

“He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift.

“My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.”

Wolfgang added: “I love you so much, Pop.”

Valerie Bertinelli, Van Halen’s first wife and Wolfgang’s mother, shared a touching tribute and revealed she was at his side when he died.

She wrote: “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.”

Bertinelli was married to Van Halen from 1981 to 2007. TMZ reported Van Halen’s current wife, Janie Liszewski, was also by his side when he died at a hospital in Santa Monica.

Obit Eddie Van Halen
Influential guitarist Eddie Van Halen and his wife Janie Liszewski (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Other stars from the world of music also paid tribute.

Sir Elton John said: “An amazing talent and a gentle, lovely man.”

Queen guitarist Brian May said in an Instagram post: “Completely gutted to hear the sad news. This wonderful man was way too young to be taken. What a talent – what a legacy – probably the most original and dazzling rock guitarist in History.

“I think of him as a boy – an innocent prodigy – always full of joy, always modest – and those truly magical fingers opened a door to a new kind of playing.

“I treasure the moments we shared. His passing leaves a giant hole in my heart. RIP Ed Van Halen. Bri”.

A message on the official AC/DC twitter account described Eddie as a “guitar wonder, his playing pure wizardry”.

It added: “To the world of music he was a special gift. To those of us fortunate enough to have met him, a very special person. He leaves a big hole in a lot of hearts. To the van Halen family my heartfelt sympathies. Angus.”

Kiss singer Gene Simmons told BBC Breakfast: “I would urge you, take young people by the scruff of the neck and force them to sit down and stop texting and tweeting just for a second and introduce them for the first time to the wonder of Eddie Van Halen and the band.

“Let them hear greatness, let them witness the joy this kid had and the amazing God-given gift that he had. And you may change a few minds, I’m fairly convinced of it…”

Revered guitarist Eddie was Van Halen’s creative force as they blurred the line between hard rock and heavy metal on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world in the 1980s.

Van Halen, reportedly a heavy smoker who fought alcoholism, had battled health issues. He first received treatment for tongue cancer in 2000 and the subsequent surgery removed about a third of his tongue.

He was declared cancer-free in 2002. It was reported last year that Van Halen had been privately battling throat cancer for five years.

Van Halen was born in the Netherlands and raised in Pasadena, California. He formed the band with his brother Alex, bassist Michael Anthony and singer David Lee Roth in 1974.

In 2015, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Van Halen eighth on its list of the 100 greatest guitar players of all time.

The band was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2007.