Steve Morse was the senior rock music critic at the Boston Globe for three decades and is the author of the Rock History course at Berklee Online.

Eddie Van Halen died this week and it hit me hard. I’ve seen the band Van Halen a number of times and was always floored by Eddie’s talent and imagination. I also was fortunate enough to interview him a few times for the Boston Globe. So I pulled out seven Eddie quotes through the years that you might like to see:

1. Staying True to Yourself

“The way I look at it, is that we’re just a bunch of goofballs that play rock ‘n’ roll, but we’re honest goofballs. We’re not a bunch of poseurs. We never follow any trends. We’re the same as we’ve always been. We just try to crank out the best possible music for our fans. And because it’s not contrived or trendy, the fans pick up on that.”

“Honest goofballs”: Eddie and Co. in fine form circa 1979
"The way I look at it, is that we're just a bunch of goofballs that play rock 'n' roll, but we're honest goofballs. We're not a bunch of poseurs. We never follow any trends. We're the same as we've always been." —Eddie Van Halen Click To Tweet

2. Forgetting Your Problems with Music

“I think there’s a lot more depth to us than meets the eye. But the bottom line is that music should entertain you. We’re not making grand statements. We’re not out to change the world. We just like to have fun and hopefully everyone has fun with us. There’s enough problems in the world. We like to take people away from those, instead of saying, ‘Hey, look at this problem. Look at that.'”

“We just like to have fun and hopefully everyone has fun with us.” Eddie Van Halen, back together with David Lee Roth in 2012. Eddie’s son Wolfgang is on bass.

3. Having No Limits

“People always ask me, ‘Hey, when are you going to do a solo record?’ Well, it’s like every Van Halen record is a solo record to me. I’m not restricted. The only reason people do solo records is because they can’t do what they want in their band. I can do whatever I want, so there’s no point.”

Eddie Van Halen plays “Cathedral” in 1988, a song which was featured on Van Halen’s 1982 album, Diver Down.

4. Choosing Guitar

“I realized I was pretty good when I could play along with anything I heard on the radio or on a record. I didn’t have to rewind the tape 10 times and go, ‘Oh, how did he play that?’ I reached that point before we put our first record out. But when I was a kid, I was actually more of a keyboard player. I trained to be a concert pianist. Then when I turned 12, I discovered the Dave Clark Five and the Beatles, and I wanted to be a drummer. So I bought myself a set of drums and started playing them. I had a paper route to pay for them, and while I was out throwing the papers, Alex was playing my drums. He got better than I did, so I said, ‘Okay, I’ll play guitar.'”


5. Songwriting

“I’m a couch guitar player. I turn the TV on with the sound off and just pick. But I spend more time writing songs now than I do trying to come up with crazy, speed-metal stuff. There are enough fast guitar-slingers out there now. Someone else can take care of that. Not that I’ve slowed down, but now I see the guitar solo as icing on the cake, not the cake.”

6. Enjoying Music at Any Age

“I don’t pay the new scene too much attention. In terms of guitarists, I like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. They’re good players. And the over-the-hill gang—Clapton, Page, Beck—they’re all still cooking along. I really don’t think it has to do with age. If you enjoy music, you just keep doing it.”

“I couldn’t bear to not play live.” Eddie Van Halen rocks out with the Sammy Hagar-led version of Van Halen in 1985.

7. Playing Live

“If I had a choice between recording records and playing live, I would definitely pick playing live. That’s the whole basis of making music. That’s how it all started with us. My father was also a musician, but he never made a record in his life. He only played live. I think there’s much more satisfaction in it because you get the instant reaction from the audience. I couldn’t bear to not play live. That’s really what it’s all about.”


 Published October 8, 2020