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Memoirs

Goodbye to a Legend

Can it be? Can he really be gone? Eddie Van Halen was a fixture. Although he did have an unhealthy lifestyle of alcohol and probably drug abuse as the lead guitarist and cofounder of the 70’s rock group Van Halen, it just seemed he would live forever. Music is immortal. I guess musicians are not.

Eddie in his later years. Still so handsome.

I believe it was my brother who introduced me to Van Halen in 1978 after their first self-titled album came out. Popping that 8-track tape into his car’s tape deck introduced me to “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Eruption,” and others. I was hooked. This was back in the day before music videos and YouTube, and we had no idea what these guys looked like, either. The album cover on the tape was barely visible. We just knew that we really liked their music.

The first album’s cover.
The boys (left to right): David Lee Roth (later replaced by Sammy Hagar) , drummer Alex Van Halen, Eddie, bassist Michael Anthony (later replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang).

That same year I met the boy who would become my husband. He was a concert aficionado, so when tickets for the legendary annual concert, the Texxas Jam, became available the next summer, Jimmy ordered two and we found ourselves at the Dallas Cotton Bowl stadium in June.

I saved the ticket stubs from the Texxas Jam. We didn’t stay late enough to see Boston.

Summer in Texas is no joke, and even though June isn’t the hottest month of the summer, our seats were high in the stadium and in direct sun. Young and dumb as we were, we used absolutely no sunscreen and brought no water. I wore a spaghetti string top and was burned so badly my shoulders were solid blisters for days, second-degree burns which could have made me sick and could still lead to melanoma. I just didn’t know better.

This is the pendant I bought at a concert. The chains either broke or were lost.

It was all worth it when Van Halen came onstage. Seeing the band in person, seeing what the band members looked like and how they performed was magical. Lead singer David Lee Roth and lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen captured my heart. Who could resist David’s long blonde curls, sexy voice, and athletic stage presence and Eddie’s cute smile and guitar riffs?

More ticket stubs. . .

Jimmy and I would see three Van Halen concerts before our kids came and we stopped going to concerts altogether. We saw them at Shreveport’s Hirsch Memorial Coliseum (where we also watched Ted Nugent and KISS) in 1980 and Dallas’s Reunion Arena in 1981.

These are programs we bought at their concerts in 1980 and 1981.

Eddie Van Halen married Valerie Bertinelli, whom I also loved from the TV show “One Day at a Time,” in April of 1980, just four months after we married in January of that year. As I grew busy with raising a family and teaching school, I grew less interested in the band and what was going on with them, and when David Lee Roth quit the band and Sammy Hagar became the lead singer, I lost interest. It was my feeling that no one could replace David. It was sad that the band couldn’t get along.

Valerie Bertinelli with Eddie.
Jimmy and me in 1979. He’s wearing a Ted Nugent concert shirt.

Losing Eddie Van Halen almost feels like losing part of my past. I know that his family is mourning, and I don’t mean to diminish their grief at all, but I’m sure that many other fans from that era must feel the same way. We can’t go back, but we can certainly listen to the music (thank you, Spotify) and fetch those memories of our youth.

I hope Eddie knew the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray he did. Thank you for the memories and the music, Eddie. They will live on.

XOXO