Eruption: Conversations with Eddie van Halen

New Book Honors One-year Anniversary of Legendary Guitarist’s Death

Here is the full Press Release

The first definitive biography of guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, a year after his death, composed of more than 50+ hours of interviews with Eddie, his family, and friends. Releasing today from Hachette Books.

October 5, 2021, New York, NY – Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Eddie Van Halen’s death, ERUPTION: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen (10/5/21; Hachette Books; 9780306826658; $28) is a major biography by two music journalists who knew him best. Authors Brad Tolinski and Chris Gill share with fans, new and old alike, a candid, compulsively readable, and definitive oral history of the most influential rock guitarist since Jimi Hendrix. The book releases October 5, 2021, and is available here.

When rock legend Eddie Van Halen died of cancer on October 6, 2020, the entire world seemed to stop and grieve. Since his band Van Halen burst onto the scene with their self-titled debut album in 1978, Eddie had been hailed as an icon not only to fans of rock music and heavy metal, but to performers across all genres and around the world. Van Halen’s debut sounded unlike anything that listeners had heard before and remains a quintessential rock album of the era. And they would end up as one of only five rock bands with two studio albums that have sold more than 10 million copies in the US.

ERUPTION: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen is based on more than 50+ hours of unreleased interviews Tolinski and Gill recorded with Eddie Van Halen over the years, most of them conducted at the legendary 5150 studios at his home in Los Angeles. The heart of ERUPTION is drawn from these intimate and wide-ranging talks, as well as conversations with family, friends, and colleagues, including other major guitarists like  Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), Steve Vai, and Steve Lukather (Toto, Michael Jackson, Ringo Starr, Elton John).

ERUPTION chronicles the highs and lows of this rock legend. In addition to discussing his greatest triumphs as a groundbreaking musician – including an unprecedented dive into Van Halen’s masterpiece 1984 and the story behind playing on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (which they did as a favor and never received a dime for) – the book takes an unflinching look at Eddie’s early struggles as a young Dutch immigrant unable to speak English, which resulted in lifelong issues with social anxiety and later problems with alcohol and cocaine.

  • Eddie Van Halen and his older brother Al and their parents moved to Pasadena, CA in 1962 when Eddie was 7 years old, with less than $50, some suitcases and a piano. During the nine-day boat ride over, Eddie and Al played piano for spare change. “We were like a kid freak show,” said Eddie.
  • The boys attended a segregated school in Pasadena and were ostracized because they knew little English. “My first friends in America were black,” Eddie said. “It was the white kids that bullied me. The black kids stood up for me.”
  • While words often failed him, as a child Eddie expressed himself through the piano, maintaining a rigorous practice schedule under the watchful eye of his mother. A few short years later, at the age of twelve, he would apply the same diligence to learning the electric guitar, spending countless hours locked in his bedroom developing the technique that would help him become one of the greatest players in the world.

It also examines his brilliance as an inventor who changed the face of guitar manufacturing.

  • Eddie built his own guitar with spare parts. The guitar, known as “Frankenstein,” created a trend that eventually changed the way electric guitars were made and revolutionized the guitar industry.
  • A handmade replica of his original guitar now resides in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and his original “Frankenstein” guitar was featured in the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019, a show inspired by Tolinski’s book on the history of the electric guitar.
  • Eddie also invented and popularized many playing techniques on the instrument that have functioned as the backbone for guitar soloing in popular music for over to 40 years. These include “tapping,” “whammy bar dives” and “chime harmonics.”

The book also explores the details of his life, both personal and professional.

  • His long and complicated marriage to Valerie Bertinelli; his close relationship with his son/bassist Wolfgang Van Halen; and his marriage to second wife and publicist Janie Liszewski, who helped him recover from substance abuse and supported him through his many cancer treatments.
  • His often-stormy relationships with Van Halen’s trio of singers: David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone.

Unfortunately for Eddie and his legions of fans, he died before he was ever able to put his life down to paper in his own words, and much of his compelling backstory has remained elusive—until now.

As entertaining as it is revealing, ERUPTION is the closest readers will ever get to hearing Eddie’s side of the story when it comes to his extraordinary life. Find out more and order here: ERUPTION: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen


Brad Tolinski was the Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine, the best-selling magazine for musicians in the world, for over 25 years. He is also the author of Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page and Play it Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound and Revolution of the Electric Guitar, which was the inspiration for the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019. He lives in New York.

Chris Gill was the Editor-in-Chief of Guitar Aficionado magazine and a regular contributor to Guitar World magazine. He is also the author of Guitar Legends: The Definitive Guide to the World’s Greatest Guitar Players, and he contributed extensive guitar background and historical text to Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories and Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll.

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