Joe Satriani: “Eddie Van Halen put so much joy into every little note that he played”

Joe Satriani performs at City Hall on November 4, 2015 in Sheffield, England
(Image credit: Neil H Kitson/Redferns)

The guitar world tributes to Eddie Van Halen, who passed away at the age of 65 on October 6, continue to pour in.

Now Joe Satriani, an electric guitar virtuoso in his own right, has chimed in with his own loving statements, recalling to Rolling Stone, “When I first heard Eruption come over the radio, I was in a little studio apartment in Berkeley, California. I actually had my guitar on, and I was totally transfixed. It was like hearing Hendrix the first time when I was a kid. The only difference was I was grown up and already a musician.”

Satch goes on to call Eddie “the greatest of my generation of players who came right after the big ones: after Hendrix, Page, Beck and Clapton.”

He continues, “I’ve never lost that excitement every time I hear his guitar playing. It always raises my heart level and I get a smile on my face. I’m just so happy that somebody did it – that someone was doing it. He put so much joy into every little note that he played. He smiled and he let you know that it was all for fun. But at the same time, every musician knew they couldn’t touch him.”

Finally, Joe takes a moment to highlight an “overlooked” aspect of Eddie’s guitar style – his impeccable rhythm work.

“[T]he Van Halen brothers – Eddie and Alex together – had a devastating attack to the beat. Their sense of the pocket is just so intense. It’s so recognizable. And that’s what invited the whole world to listen.

“There’s a little song [on 1984] that’s overlooked called House of Pain. You just listen to that, the way that they pound that rhythm. I don’t want to separate them, because every time we hear Eddie, we hear Alex. It’s a beautiful thing: the joy of brothers playing together, and the love there is just undeniable.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.