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Eddie Van Halen Plays Guitar (and Discusses Innovation) at the Smithsonian — Video

Last night (February 12), Eddie Van Halen spoke at Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian National Museum of American History and Zocalo Public Square as part of the institution's "What It Means to Be American" series.

The Dutch-born Van Halen, 60, discussed his American journey, "his role in creating one of the biggest American rock bands of all time and how he has reinvented the way the guitar is played and designed."

He also answered the question, "Is rock and roll about reinvention?" And, oh yeah—he played guitar!

Journalist Denise Quan moderated the sold-out event.

Below, you'll find a professionally shot video, a Soundcloud audio stream and a photo gallery from the event.

Van Halen and Fender donated a master-built replica of Van Halen's white-with-black-stripe Stratocaster. This is the guitar that changed the world in 1978 when Van Halen cross-pollinated Gibson's electronics with Fender's body and neck designs. To represent the path of progressions in his instrument designs, a Stealth finished EVH Brand Wolfgang guitar also was included to represent his modern-day workhorse.

Van Halen and Fender also donated an EVH Brand 5150-III amp and speaker cabinet to showcase Van Halen's electronic growth and musical gear over the decades.

Photos: Chris Gill

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Damian Fanelli

Damian is editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine. From 1998 to 2014, he was one third of Mister Neutron, an instrumental rock act that toured the universe and elsewhere and released three albums via Austin-based Deep Eddy Records. These days he performs with several New York City-area bands and can often be spotted with one of his many, many, many B-bender-equipped guitars. In past lives he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor – and he still can’t believe he got to write the liner notes for the latest SRV box set.