Eddie Van Halen, the Shredder Supreme, RIP

By Jon Pareles

Eddie Van Halen played not just fast but hyperfast. He played loud. He was flashy, assertive and explosive, often interrupting one virtuosic display with an even showier screech or run or glissando. As the lead guitarist in Van Halen, he plucked, tapped, strummed, bent, flicked, pinged and scraped his strings, simultaneously supporting his band’s lead singers and goading them with manic counterpoint.

And on the countless arena stages he played with Van Halen, as well as on camera for music videos, he did it all with an unforced smile — not the oh-so-melodramatic facial contortions of so many lead guitarists, but a grin of boyish delight at how he could blend propulsion, filigree and outright havoc, and at how much noisy fun he was getting away with. His signature red Frankenstrat guitar, decorated with black and white stripes, wasn’t a phallic weapon; it was an endlessly malleable toy.

Read the rest of Jon Pareles’s New York Times piece HERE.

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