Van Halen had been battling cancer for several decades.
Born on Jan. 26, 1955 in the Netherlands before moving to Pasadena with his family, Van Halen formed Mammoth in 1972 with his brother Alex on drums, Mark Stone on bass and David Lee Roth on vocals. They’d replace Stone with Michael Anthony to form the band simply known as Van Halen. After playing around the greater Los Angeles area, the group’s first demo was produced by KISS’ Gene Simmons and they were signed to Warner Bros. not long after.
In 1978, the band released their now legendary self-titled debut, which featured songs like “Runnin’ With the Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love,” a cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and the 100-second whirlwind “Eruption” that showed off Van Halen’s revolutionary tapping style (though he said he didn’t invent it) that forever changed the instrument and influenced several generations of guitarists.
The band would go on to become international rock stars and their hit-laden career would include songs like “Jamie’s Cryin’,” “Unchained,” “Hot for Teacher,” “Panama” and “Jump,” which was their sole number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1985, Roth would leave the group under acrimonious circumstances and would be replaced by Sammy Hagar. The band would achieve more success with the release of 5150, OU812 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, which spawned “Right Now,” a song known as much for winning a VMA as it was for its placement in Crystal Clear Pepsi commercials in 1993. Van Halen also won a Grammy for Hard Rock Performance for that album in 1992.
In the late ’90s, Hagar would be replaced by Extreme singer Gary Cherone and Van Halen would have a greater influence over the band’s sound on Van Halen III. Hagar later returned to the band before Roth came back in 2007, and he would remain in the band from there on out.
Van Halen’s final show was in October 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl.
In addition to his music career, Van Halen will forever be remembered by fans for his contributions to pop culture and film, including cameos in series such as Frasier and Two and a Half Men and being one of the titular characters’ driving forces in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
He is survived by his wife Janie and his son Wolfgang.