In the history of music not many guitar players influenced so many artists and really changed the course of the electric guitar as Eddie Van Halen was able to do. He formed Van Halen in 1972 alongside his brother Alex but it was only in 1978 that they were able to release their debut album that showed the world what Edward could do with his guitar.
Over the decades he became a true guitar-hero and inspired countless artists all over the world but obviously, as every musician, he was influenced by other players when he was still starting to play. He revealed once who was one of his biggest heroes when he was still evolving as a guitarist.
The guitarist that Eddie Van Halen said was his hero
Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1955 but moved with his family to the United States seven years later, where he and his brother Alex would meet David Lee Roth (Singer) and Michael Anthony (Bass), the two other musicians who would help them to achieve fame with their band.
Before creating his own style that would cause a real revolution in terms of guitar playing in Rock and Roll, Eddie Van Halen was influenced by other players and he revealed that his guitar hero was Eric Clapton.
The musician said that during a session of questions and answers with What It Means to Be American in 2015 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). “As a guitarist, Eric Clapton was my hero because he was a straight-ahead guy. (He) must plugged his guitar straight into an amp and it was very organic, so to speak.”
“Not putting a lot of “bs” (bullshit) in between. So, yeah, I liked him during Cream.. After Cream, I kind of lost interest in him. I basically stopped listening to music altogether. I didn’t listen to much of anything after that. (So) I was so busy and wrapped up in my own little world that I just didn’t eat.”
“|You can ask Alex or my son. The last record I bought? Peter Gabriel‘s “So” (1986) and the record before that I don’t have a clue (laughs). And I never listened to radio in my car, I like (to hear) the engine of a car (laughs). One of my cars is the recordings too. On the breakdown in (the song) ‘Panama’, where it goes ‘Oh, I’m a little bit hot tonight’, it goes ‘vrumm’, that’s one of my cars (laughs)” Eddie Van Halen said.
He once said that Eric Clapton was the only guitarist he heard doing an interesting long guitar solo
The musician was lucky enough to have met Eric Clapton and spent some time with British guitarist during his career. He loved especially what he did when he was a member of John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Cream. He had said that already back in 1981 when he talked with Guitar World magazine. According to Van Halen, he knew every note that Clapton had played
“Clapton was it. I knew every note he played. That’s what I was known for around home. Me, Alex and another bass player called ourselves Mammoth and we were the junior Cream.” In the same conversation, the guitarist agreed that Cream’s version for “Crossroads” was one of the best live recorded songs that existed.
“It’s funny. When I do interviews and tell people Clapton was my main influence, they go ‘Who?’ Because they’re thinking about Clapton doing ‘Lay Down Sally’, not the Bluesbreakers or Cream.”
“I haven’t heard anyone do a long interesting guitar solo outside of early Clapton. I do a guitar solo in the live show which is long. Some people may think it’s boring, but I have fun. Clapton was my favorite,” Eddie Van Halen said.
For Van Halen, Clapton’s essence was what he recorded live with Cream
His love for Cream continued over the decades and he told Rolling Stone in 2011, that the albums “Wheels Of Fire” (1968) and “Goodbye” (1969) were some of his favorites of the British group. It was short-lived supergroup, since it was active only from 1966 to 1968. But Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce caused a huge impact in the Rock and Roll business with their music.
As Eddie told Guitar World in an interview made alongside the Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi in 2013, he loved especially the live recordings of Clapton with Cream. “With me it was all about the live Cream stuff. I don’t mean to downplay anything Clapton did, but for me it was also about Cream’s rhythm section.”
“Listen to “I’m So Glad” on Goodbye and adjust the balance to the right. Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were playing jazz through Marshalls. To me that is where Clapton’s style came from. Clapton was the only guy doing that kind of extended soloing back then,” Eddie Van Halen said.
Clapton first achieved fame as a member of The Yardbirds and still in the 60s he also was praised when he was a member of John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. But he really became a household name when Cream released their first album and became known as the first supergroup in Rock and Roll.
During the following decades the musician focused more on the Blues, also adding a little bit of Pop too, making his music more accessible to the radio stations. That was crucial to make him one of the best-selling artists in the history of music. He has sold an estimated amount of more than 280 million records worldwide.