There are two days in the past 50 years that permanently altered the direction and trajectory of my life. As most of you could probably guess, one of these would be the first time I witnessed Flip Pallot and Chico Fernandez fly fishing for Redfish on the Indian River in an early episode of The Walker’s Cay Chronicles. The other would be the first time that I heard Eddie Van Halen play his explosive instrumental guitar masterpiece, Eruption on the first Van Halen LP….Van Halen I.
As most of you are probably aware, Edward Van Halen passed away yesterday from cancer at the relatively young age of 65 years old. A sad day for everyone who was a Van Halen fan, and even sadder day for those of us who have been students of the instrument, and understand the gravity of his influence on just about every aspect of modern electric guitar. From amplifier circuitry to modern guitar design and architecture, to cutting edge playing technique, there wasn’t one aspect of the art of electric guitar that didn’t have Eddie’s indelible fingerprints all over it.
I could go on for probably a dozen or more pages about the influence that Eddie as a musician had on my life, but this is not what I wanted this week’s Front Page to be about. Yesterday afternoon when I heard the news about Eddie’s death at 65, my first thought was “dude, that ain't but 15 years away from where you are now.” Fifteen years seems like a long time until I remind myself that it was 2004 when I got married, and that seems like yesterday.
When I turned 50 last year, it was quite the awakening for me. It was almost as if overnight that I realized that all of our days are numbered, and the day of reckoning is approaching quicker than I would like. Early last year I was having a conversation about this very subject with my old pal Bubba, who gently reminded me that “ brother you ain't getting’ any younger, so you better get off your ass and do whatever it is that you’re going to do before you’re not physically able to”. Bubba’s inimitable style of subtle expression is often harsh and in your face. But, more often than not you walk away and about an hour after you've recovered from the hazing, you realize “dang….he’s right”. None of us have any idea how many days were gifted on planet earth, and I suppose in some way I’ve always known that, but this past year…and more importantly these last few days have really opened my eyes to that.
Several months back I did a column on one of my favorite books titled Plugger, about the life of famed Texas fisherman Rudy Grigar. I remember reading it for the first time, and at one point Rudy lamenting about how he felt he was “running out of time” to fish all the places that he wanted to. As every day passes, I feel that same sense of urgency myself to “do whatever it is that I’m going to do” before it’s too late. And, every day that is not spent on the water doing what I know I was put here to do seem like a monumental waste of precious time.
Although my guitar playing days are pretty far back in the rearview mirror, I still think about it constantly. When I hear songs on the radio I visualize how they’re played on the neck. I think about the kind of equipment it would take to recreate the tone. And, I have to say, from time to time I am tempted to pick the instrument back up and dabble in it a little bit. But then I hear a Van Halen tune, and think “why bother, perfection has already been achieved”. My one hope is that when I get to the other side (wherever that is) I sure hope I get the chance to sit down with Eddie and have him teach me Eruption one on one. I tried to copy that note for note for over a damn decade, and it still didn’t sound a thing like when he plays it.
Whether you’re a hard rock fan or not, I hope tonight you’ll raise a glass of you’re preferred adult libation to King Edward. His life and music brought joy to countless millions, and in the process he squeezed every last drop out of the time he spent on this planet doing what he loved…..may we all aspire to do the same.