Grammys Asked Wolfgang Van Halen to Perform “Eruption,” He Declined
The rock and metal world have seen a bit of controversy over how the Grammys decided to honor the late Eddie Van Halen at their 63rd annual event this past Sunday (March 14), with many fans calling the show’s tribute insufficient. Now Eddie’s son Wolfgang has chimed in, and while he also was disappointed with the brevity of the EVH tribute, it turns out he himself could’ve made it much more substantial by accepting an invitation from the show.
As usual, the Grammys featured an “in memoriam” segment to honor notable musicians who have died over the past year. Van Halen’s was one of the first to appear, accompanied by footage of his iconic “Frankenstrat” guitar sitting in front of a video screen showing Eddie playing “Eruption.” All told the clip lasted about 15 seconds in contrast to the vast majority of names that simply scrolled by, and it was one of only a handful to feature music. But that wasn’t enough for many fans, who thought EVH should’ve gotten the same treatment as Little Richard, Kenny Rogers and John Prine, who got live, full band tributes from modern artists.
After digesting both the awards ceremony and the public outcry, Wolfgang, who recently scored a #1 radio single with his own song, “Distance,” took to Twitter to share his disappointment and to explain that the Grammys did in fact offer him a performance, which he declined, claiming he couldn’t have done his father justice. He said:
“The GRAMMYS asked me to play Eruption for the ‘In Memoriam’ section and I declined. I don’t think anyone could have lived up to what my father did for music but himself.
“It was my understanding that there would be an ‘In Memoriam’ section where bits of songs were performed for legendary artists that had passed. I didn’t realize that they would only show Pop for 15 seconds in the middle of 4 full performances for others we had lost.
“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.
“I’m not looking to start some kind of hate parade here, I just wanted to explain my side. I know Pop would probably just laugh it off and say “Ehh who gives a shit?” He was only about the music anyway. The rest didn’t matter.
“I’d love to get the opportunity to speak with The Recording Academy not only about the legacy of my father, but the legacy of the Rock genre moving forward.
As he did when Steven Wilson had less than kind things to say about his father’s legacy, and again when a new mural honoring Eddie went up behind a Los Angeles Guitar Center, Wolfgang has proven himself quite the classy gentleman, responding thoughtfully instead of letting things devolve into mud-slinging.
But: look, I too would’ve loved to see a lengthier tribute to Eddie, a man who single-handedly changed the course of my musical discovery and is indirectly responsible for this website’s existence. But, even if there was a miscommunication with the Grammys, Wolfgang had his chance to make the tribute way more significant and he declined. As for the tribute not being longer anyway, I’m not really sure what to make of that other than to say… are you really surprised, man? The Grammys have been getting it wrong for a very long time!
You can watch the on-air tribute to Eddie below via another Eddie, proverbial old-man-yells-at-cloud torchbearer Eddie Trunk, who could benefit from some grammar correction like rewrite my essay.
Since Eddie’s death, Wolfgang has launched his own band, dubbed Mammoth WVH (Mammoth was the original name of the Van Halen brothers’ band). Wolfgang performs all instruments and sings on “Distance,” his debut single, which he said serves as a tribute to his father:
“As my pop continued to struggle with various health issues, I was imagining what my life would be like without him and how terribly I’d miss him. While the song is incredibly personal, I think anyone can relate to the idea of having a profound loss in their life,”
The video for the song is composed entirely of footage from Wolfgang’s childhood, spanning from clips of him as a newborn to his more recent role as Van Halen’s bassist. It’s all beyond touching, and culminates with a voice message Eddie left his son — presumably during his final days — asking for a call back, that he simply wanted to hear his son’s voice and that he loves him. It’s difficult not to get teary hearing it.
Wolfgang adds of the song
“I never intended ‘Distance’ to be the very first piece of music people would hear from me, but I also thought my father would be here to celebrate its release. This is for him. I love and miss you, Pop.”