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Remembering Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen smiling

It’s the smile that always sticks with me.

There was no shortage of smiles in the flamboyant and hedonistic hair band scene that sprung up in the wake of Van Halen’s titanic success. And most of them were the devilish smiles of libertine young men who were delighted to be getting away with something: namely, overindulging in the intoxicants and promiscuity that were frowned upon by the priggish adults of the Reagan era.

To whatever degree Eddie participated in that culture, his smile was different. It wasn’t subversive and self-satisfied. It was rhapsodic and radiant. And honestly, it was kind of redundant. Because when you listened to him play, you could hear that smile as well as you could see it.

The main takeaway from most tributes to Eddie is that he was a genius innovator who made an indelible mark on the landscape of music, and that’s certainly true. But what made him a hero to me was how he did it all with a smile.