Grammy Awards criticized over "15-second" Eddie Van Halen tribute

Eddie Van Halen
(Image credit: Ross Merino/Getty)

UPDATE (03.16.21): Since the ceremony, Wolfgang Van Halen has revealed he was asked to play Eruption in tribute to his father, but declined. More on that story here.

Former Van Halen vocalist Gary Cherone has voiced his disappointment of the Grammy Award’s muted tribute to late electric guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, commenting that the man who “reimagined how one plays an instrument deserves more than fifteen seconds" at the ceremony.

The singer was joined by SiriusXM host Eddie Trunk, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid and Fozzy vocalist Chris Jericho, all of whom voiced similar sentiments towards the Grammys’ treatment of Van Halen’s memorial, which consisted of a 20-second archival clip of the virtuoso playing a live Eruption solo while a spotlight shone on his iconic Frankenstrat. The segment was similar to the Billboard Music Awards tribute, which took place on October 14, 2020, just over a week after EVH passed away at the age of 65.

Van Halen was included in the Grammys’ In Memoriam section, which also paid tribute to Mary Wilson, Bonnie Pointer, Charlie Daniels, MF Doom and Pop Smoke. Alongside these, special tribute performances were also carried out to remember the late Kenny Rogers, Little Richard and John Prine.

Not long after the section aired, Cherone blasted the Grammys for its subdued treatment of Van Halen, saying, “Maybe an Artist that reimagined how one plays an instrument, who continues to influence generations of musicians and, literally changed the course of rock ‘n’ roll deserves more than fifteen seconds at the Grammys?”

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Eddie Trunk echoed these sentiments, reeling off a three-tweet-long thread lambasting the coverage, saying, “So in a more than 3 hour show, with 5 months to prepare, this is all #GRAMMYS could muster for one of the most iconic impactful artists in music history… they reached new levels of shame & disrespect. I am besides myself.”

“How hard would it have been to have a guitarist rip Eruption?” he continued. “Of course the major rock guy gets no tribute.. Of course! Or have @WolfVanHalen do Distance, a # 1 ROCK SONG!! New lows. I am sickened beyond words.

"Good to see your programming priorities are in place as expected. Nobody even said his name! INSANE!"

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Vernon Reid quickly threw his hat in the ring, saying, “SMH. Seriously ?”, with Fozzy singer Chris Jericho commenting, "Hey @RecordingAcad... no tribute to @eddievanhalen tonight? Don't ever try to give my band a nomination. I'd rather win a @RazzieAwards."

Aside from the all-too-brief EVH tribute, last night’s 63rd annual Grammy Awards ceremony was a successful evening for guitar-playing acts, with H.E.R., Thundercat, Body Count and The Strokes all scooping awards.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.