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Grammys producer responds to Eddie Van Halen tribute criticism

Eddie Van Halen
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

While the 63rd Grammy Awards were a resounding success for guitar-playing artists, the Recording Academy's 15-second tribute to Eddie Van Halen drew considerable criticism from the rock world, including from the late guitar great's son, Wolfgang Van Halen.

Taking to Twitter, WVH wrote: “What hurt the most was that he wasn't even mentioned when they talked about artists we lost in the beginning of the show.

“I know rock isn't the most popular genre right now, (and the Academy does seem a bit out of touch), but I think it's impossible to ignore the legacy my father left on the instrument, the world of rock, and music in general. There will never be another innovator like him.”

He also revealed that he'd been asked by the Academy to perform Van Halen classic Eruption at the ceremony, though he declined the invitation.

Now, in a new interview with Variety, Grammys executive producer Ben Winston has issued a response, explaining the circumstances behind Van Halen's tribute.

“We had a call with [a rep for] Wolfgang before the show, and I asked him if he'd be willing to come on and play,” he says.

“He felt he didn't really want to do that, and I offered up eight or nine guitarists who maybe could. But instead, he felt like we should play a video of Eddie himself, because nobody could play like him, so that's what we did.”

He continues: “I would have loved for it to be longer than it was, but Eddie was the only person in the whole 'In Memoriam' to play their own music, with no other faces being seen. I felt that was an appropriate tribute to him, but if Wolfgang didn't, I'm sorry about that, of course. It's such a horrific thing to lose a parent. We did the best that we felt we could.”

Wolfgang did say in his previous tweet that he “didn't realize that they would only show Pop for 15 seconds in the middle of four full performances for others we had lost”.

Among other rock 'n' roll heavyweights to chime in on the subdued EVH tribute were Eddie Trunk – who accused the Academy of reaching “new levels of shame and disrespect” – and former Van Halen vocalist Gary Cherone – who argued that a guitarist who “literally changed the course of rock 'n' roll [deserved] more than 15 seconds at the Grammys”.

Sam Roche

Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.