Eddie Van Halen and his family had to deal with racism growing up due to their mixed-race background, former bandmate David Lee Roth said in a resurfaced interview.
The acclaimed Van Halen guitarist died last week at age 65 following a long battle with cancer. The legendary rocker was born to mother Eugenia, who was born in Indonesia, and father Jan, who was born in the Netherlands.
Speaking on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast in 2019, Roth discussed his former bandmate and how he and his brother, Alex, endured racism from the people they grew up with in The Netherlands for being “half-breeds.”
“It was a big deal. Those homeboys grew up in a horrifying racist environment to where they actually had to leave the country,” Roth explained at the time.
“They came to America and did not speak English as a first language in the early ’60s,” he continued. “So that kind of spark, that kind of stuff, that runs deep.”
Guitarist Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen performs on stage at Sleep Train Amphitheatre on September 30, 2015, in Chula Vista, Calif.
(Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)
As People notes, Eddie Van Halen himself discussed the racism he and his mother endured after moving to the U.S. during a 2017 interview for a series titled “Is Rock ‘n’ Roll All About Reinvention?” in which he talked with Denise Quan about his life.
“We already went through that in Holland, you know, first day, first grade. Now, you’re in a whole other country where you can’t speak the language, and you know absolutely nothing about anything and it was beyond frightening,” he said. “I don’t even know how to explain, but I think it made us stronger because you had to be.”
He went on to note that most of the vitriol coming his way based on his race came from White children. In fact, he said he identified more with the Black students at his school given that he felt like he was also a minority.
“It was actually the White people that were the bullies,” he said in the interview. “They would tear up my homework and papers, make me eat playground sand, all those things, and the Black kids stuck up for me.”
Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen performing at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., on April 3, 1984.
Fortunately for rock history, the Van Halen brothers went on to co-found the legendary rock group, which is still considered one of the most prominent in the rock genre. With his distinct solos, Eddie Van Halen was the engine behind the ultimate California party band and helped knock disco off the charts starting in the late 1970s with his band’s self-titled debut album and then with the blockbuster record “1984,” which contains the classics “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher.”
Van Halen is among the top 20 best-selling artists of all time, and the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Rolling Stone magazine put Eddie Van Halen at No. 8 in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.