The news of Eddie's death, while not unexpected, is still a sad deal. He fought cancer for a long time, and still performed through a lot of it. His mastery of the guitar was second to none.
I got to see Van Halen perform in Little Rock when they were touring for the 1984 album. That is still the most dynamic concert I have ever seen. The whole show, from David Lee Roth's antics on stage, to Eddie Van Halen's guitar work, was amazing. I've been to many, many concerts since then and nobody has topped what Van Halen did that night. And I'm glad I got to see Van Halen in their prime.
To make the concert even more interesting, there was one heck of a fight between two knuckleheads on the floor right before Van Halen came out. The combatants were really beating on each other. The security people acted like hockey refs by clearing everybody away and letting the two peckerwoords slug it out until they fell to the floor. As soon as that happened, the security guys jumped in and broke up the fight. It was a unique way to get ready for what turned into a great show.
Extremely sad to hear of Eddie's passing. His innovations and influence on modern guitar playing, and music in general, is immeasureable across about every genre of music there is.
I know I am usually in the minority on this opinion, but the Gary Cherone-era-VH (1996-1999) was really great. The Van Halen III album(featuring Cherone) was quite experimental both in song structure and lyrically. And a few times, Eddie sounded more than a little like Nuno Bettencourt in his riffs & solos on the album- a writing influence Gary brought along from his bandmates in Extreme.
Anyone interested in hearing music that was largely written to be on 'Van Halen III's' follow up album can check out Gary's band 'Tribe of Judah'- formed in 2001 with two former 'Extreme' bandmates- Mike Mangini & Pat Badger, along with Leo Mellace and Steve Ferlazzo on guitar and keys. It was a bit more industrial and dark, with Gary's signature cynnical writing style. The track 'Left for Dead' was one track written for VH.
Living in the Boston area, I was fortunate enough to see Tribe of Judah play nearly every show they performed from '01-04. "Once," off Van Halen III, was usually in the setlist and guitarist Leo Mellace always nailed it. That song showcased what an incredibly skilled and diversified musician Eddie was.
Thoughts and prayers to the Van Halen family & friends.