The iconic guitarist and founder of his eponymous rock band lost his battle with throat cancer.
The flashy guitarist and bandleader had been the subject of near-death rumors for many years, some due to his documented substance abuse issues but most stemming from news of tongue cancer in 2000, which caused doctors to remove a third of his tongue though Van Halen was declared cancer-free two years later.
In recent months, however, reports stated that he was battling throat cancer and flying to Germany for specialized treatments though rumors of his imminent demise seemed to be exaggerated.
Van Halen’s son Wolf shared a touching memorial to “the best father I could ever ask for.”
— Wolf Van Halen (@WolfVanHalen) October 6, 2020
In recent months, after a protracted period out of sight that led to more rumors of ill-health, Van Halen made a determined attempt at a public profile. During October he was photographed at a McLaren auto dealership in Beverly Hills, Calif., and shortly after that he attended Tool’s October concert in Los Angeles — and even took a photo for a fan who didn’t recognize Van Halen.
Van Halen posted holiday messages in December, celebrated the release of some new branded gear at this year’s NAMM Show and, most recently, wished his son Wolfgang Van Halen a happy birthday on March 16.
“I feel like a 60-year-old punk kid who plays guitar in a rock band, and I am so blessed and so honored to be able to do that, making music,” Van Halen said during a 2017 public interview for whatitmeanstobeamerican.org at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
His wife Janie was by his side as the cancer spread throughout his body. He passed away in Santa Monica on Tuesday, according to TMZ.