Is Eddie Van Halen the Greatest Rock Guitarist Since Hendrix?

By Andrew Catania

The history rock music will forever be highlighted by a select few who managed to achieve far greater heights than their contemporaries. Jimi Hendrix is one, with the sheer brilliance and expertise par excellence, had no boundaries or restrictions to limit his potential and the magic he was capable of with the guitar.


With no rules to abide by and no sequences to follow – he was unstoppable, with an unwavering courage to explore and carve musical planes that have never been heard of before. Jimi Hendrix made it worth it, to be considered as the undisputed God of Blues genre and escalated legendary milestones to a whole new height, making it even more challenging for his successors to touch that level of greatness.

It is quite refreshing to note that the post-Hendrix era is populated with a number of names that took it upon them to take forward the ‘Hendrix Legacy’ and took pride in following the path laid by the eternal maestro of Rock/Hard Rock. Eddie Van Halen, for instance, is one of those few names who made their own signature mark on the music scene of the 1970s and 1980s.

The mastery he had held over his personalized six-stringed instruments ensured that it was him that controlled how his guitar would work and what he squeezed out of the chords, not the other way round. So, it all makes perfect sense if we say that the musical planes and the untapped realms that he ventured into were not a coincidence, rather his own brilliance, forte, and excellence.

An analysis of his notes and techniques is a strong validation of his great and intricate attention to details. Fast, furious and with an extreme audacity to make your eardrums experience new heights of musical ecstasy, Eddie Van Halen himself compares his playing style to a racing car, going down the road, blitzing through everything that comes in between.


Just like Hendrix – the Blues/Rock maestro, Van Halen too had little to stop him when it came to playing the whammy bars and gave a whole new meaning to the heavy metal rock through ‘Panama’, ‘Eruption’ and ‘Hot for Teacher’. His notes made a profound impact that was anything but distortion. Perfectly planned, and intricately carved, every single fluctuation and nuance still makes an impression as if a far-fetched fantasy is coming to life.

His musical virtuosity is a depiction of his uniqueness, and entails his signature sound, as in, the dive bombs, fast licks, finger tapping and pinching on natural harmonics. He was not just a pioneer or the catalyst of a new style; he made them popular and inspired many young artists and musicians that took pride in following his lead. The way he used effects pedals, hot-rodded amps and custom modded guitars, it escalated the musical bar and ensured that hard rock still had a lot in it to be explored. 

It was all worth it, for apart from countless other awards and accolades, including the Grammy Award for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1992), American Music Award for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1991), MTV Music Awards for ‘Jump’ (1984), ‘Finish What Ya Started’ (1989), and two awards for ‘Right Now’ in 1992, Eddie Van Halen was declared the ‘Greatest Guitarist of all Times’ in a poll conducted by Guitar World Magazine.


More than the awards and accolades that mark his musical career, it is his inclination to develop his signatures taps, his understanding of the strings and chords and the perfect chemistry between his fingertips and his instruments, that enabled him to produce not just a piece of music but a real treat to cherish for a lifetime. It is his successful attempts at turning the impossible into possible with a mere finger tap that justifies that if anyone could be rendered as a successor to the ’Hendrix legacy, Eddie Van Halen almost makes it too.

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4 thoughts on “Is Eddie Van Halen the Greatest Rock Guitarist Since Hendrix?

  1. Eddie van Halen is more important than
    Hendrix. Hendrix cracked the lid of the case
    open a bit, and shone a chink of light on what
    was possible. Eddie blew the case to
    smithereens, effortlessly redefining the whole
    concept of rock guitar playing. I personally
    prefer other players – my favourite is Satriani –
    but Eddie is the most important player in the
    history of rock guitar.

  2. Hendrix is an iconoclast. The changed the paradigm for guitarists because of the profound impact he had on both his
    contemporaries and those who came after. It doesn’t matter if he recorded for a year or 50- the impact is still being felt. While
    EVH is an exceptional player and certainly one of the best working guitarists today, He doesn’t hold a candle to people like Jeff
    Beck, Lenny Breau, or Tommy Emmanuel. I’d chalk a lot of that up to his alcoholism- say what you will, but it does have a
    negative impact when you’re that much a slave to the beast.

  3. There were amazing rock guitarists between Jimi and Eddie: Ritchie Blackmore, Frank Marino, Uli Roth and Michael
    Schenker to name a few. But in terms of influencing how people played the instrument, Eddie picked up the mantle as a
    revolutionary guitar player. Jimi influenced hard rock, funk, soul and blues players who took different parts of his style. But I
    would say the way he used effects, the whammy bar, feedback and sustain changed the way rock guitar was played. Jeff
    Beck had an influence on that too and Page and Clapton’s licks hugely influenced 70’s guitar, but even they were influenced
    by Jimi. Those guys set the template for the next 10 years or so, then Eddie came along and his tone, tapping and technique
    changed rock again, adding to it another array of sounds that became the fiber of rock guitar playing. Yes others tapped
    before him, but none like him and it was his way of doing it that opened the door for what followed. Not to mention how he
    changed the way people made guitars. Then Yngwie came along and added another dimension with the way he used sweep
    picking and scales to bring rock playing to a higher technical level. Whether you like him or not, there’s no denying his
    influence. To me those are the three most revolutionary players, Jimi, Eddie and Yngwie. “Greatest” is a hard title to give to
    any single player and is defined differently by different people, but this article seems to focus on who took the guitar to new

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