By Andrew Catania
The history of heavy metal rock will forever be highlighted by a select few who managed to achieve far greater heights than their contemporaries. Jimi Hendrix is one, with the sheer brilliance and expertise par excellence, had no boundaries or restrictions to limit his potential and the magic he was capable of with the guitar.
With no rules to abide by and no sequences to follow – he was unstoppable, with unwavering courage to explore and carve musical planes that have never been heard of before. Jimi Hendrix made it worth it, to be considered as the undisputed God of the heavy metal genre and escalated legendary milestones to a whole new height, making it even more challenging for his successors to touch that level of greatness.
It is quite refreshing to note that the post-Hendrix era is populated with several names that took it upon them to take forward the ‘Hendrix legacy’ and took pride in following the path laid by the eternal maestro of the heavy metal world. Eddie Van Halen, for instance, is one of those few names who made their signature mark on the music scene of the 1970s and 1980s.
The mastery he had held over his personalized six-stringed instruments ensured that it was him that controlled how his guitar would work and what he squeezed out of the chords, not the other way round. So, it all makes perfect sense if we say that the musical planes and the untapped realms that he ventured into were not a coincidence, somewhat his brilliance, forte, and excellence.
An analysis of his notes and techniques is a strong validation of his tremendous and intricate attention to details. Fast, furious and with an extreme audacity to make your eardrums experience new heights of musical ecstasy, Eddie Van Halen himself compares his playing style to a racing car, going down the road, blitzing through everything that comes in between.
Just like Hendrix – the rock maestro, Van Halen too had little to stop him when it came to playing the whammy bars and gave a whole new meaning to the heavy metal rock through ‘Panama,’ ‘Eruption’ and ‘Hot for Teacher.’ His notes made a profound impact that was anything but distortion. Excellently planned, and intricately carved, every single fluctuation and nuance still makes an impression as if a farfetched fantasy is coming to life.
His musical virtuoso is a depiction of his uniqueness, and entails his signature master moves, as in, the dive bombs, fun licks, finger tapping and pinching on the natural harmonics. He was not just a pioneer or inventor of a new style; he made them famous and inspired many young artists and musicians that took pride in following his lead. The way he used effects pedals, hot-rodded amps and tricking out guitars, it escalated the set bars and ensured that hard rock still had a lot in it to be explored.
It was all worth it, for apart from countless other awards and accolades, including the Grammy Award for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1992), American Music Award for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1991), MTV Music Awards for ‘Jump’ (1984), ‘Finish What Ya Started’ (1989), and two awards for ‘Right Now’ in 1992, Eddie Van Halen was declared as the ‘Greatest Guitarist of all Times’ in a poll conducted by Guitar World Magazine.
More than the awards and accolades that mark his musical career, it is his inclination to develop his signatures taps, his understanding of the strings and chords and the perfect chemistry between his fingertips and his instruments, that enabled him to produce not just a piece of music but a real treat to cherish for a lifetime. It is his successful attempts at turning the impossible into possible with a mere finger tap that justifies that if anyone could be rendered as a successor to the ’Hendrix legacy, Eddie Van Halen almost makes it to that honor.