One of the greatest rock guitarists of all time died Tuesday morning after a long battle with cancer. Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen's son and bandmate, confirmed his father's death in a tweet. "He was the best father I could ask for," he wrote. "Every moment I've shared with him on and off stage was a gift." Van Halen was 65. He founded the band Van Halen with drumming brother Alex Van Halen, singer David Lee Roth, and bassist Michael Anthony in Pasadena, Calif. in 1974, and his incredible guitar skills helped make them one of the most successful hard rock bands in history, the Guardian reports. He led the band through multiple lineup changes in the decades that followed, including several changes of lead singer. His son replaced Anthony in 2006.
Van Halen, whose family moved from the Netherlands to California when he was eight, was the "most influential guitarist of his generation," writes Jim Farber at the New York Times. "His outpouring of riffs, runs and solos was hyperactive and athletic, joyous and wry, making deeper or darker emotions feel irrelevant." Rolling Stone notes that without Van Halen's influence, hard rock would have evolved in "unimaginably different ways" after the late '70s. "I don’t know s--- about scales or music theory," he told the magazine in 1980. "I don’t want to be seen as the fastest guitar in town, ready and willing to gun down the competition. All I know is that rock and roll guitar, like blues guitar, should be melody, speed, and taste, but more important, it should have emotion." (Read more Eddie Van Halen stories.)