The Pasadena City Council is scheduled to take up a recommendation Monday to consider creating a memorial honoring hometown hero Eddie Van Halen.
The innovative guitarist, who died from cancer Oct. 6 at age 65, attended school in Pasadena with his drums-playing older brother, Alex, and it was at Pasadena City College that the beginnings of the band that would be known as Van Halen can be traced.
The group played backyard parties in the area for hard rock-loving teens in the early 1970s before climbing to international fame.
Since Eddie Van Halen’s death, fans have flocked to Pasadena locations linked to the musician to leave flowers, candles — and even a Fender guitar — in honor of the guitar hero.
According to its agenda, the council will take up a recommendation from City Manager Steve Mermell that the board consider providing direction as to “an appropriate means of commemorating” the late musician.
Since his passing, the city has received requests and suggestions from the community to do or name something in the guitarist’s honor “to recognize both his local connection to Pasadena, as well as the impact that his artistry had on music,” Mermell wrote in a staff report.
As Mermell noted, the Van Halen family emigrated from the Netherlands to Pasadena in 1962 and settled in a house on Las Lunas Street. The two Van Halen children, Eddie and Alex, attended Hamilton Elementary School where they performed for the first time in a student band called the Broken Combs — and held down a paper route for the Pasadena Star-News.
By the early 1970s, the Van Halen boys attended Pasadena City College where, in a scoring and arranging class, they met future Van Halen front man David Lee Roth. Together, with Arcadia resident Michael Anthony, they formed the group Van Halen and began playing local venues from outdoor parties to the Civic Auditorium.
By the 1980s, Van Halen was regarded as one of the best-selling rock artists of all time with Eddie singled out for “reinventing heavy metal and fusing it with pop for a new Rock & Roll sound,” Mermell wrote.
Eddie Van Halen led the band through five decades and three lead singers, and was considered a virtuoso for his two-handed tapping technique. Along with appearing on over a dozen albums with the band, Eddie played the blazing guitar break on Michael Jackson’s megahit “Beat It.”
Given the band’s connection to Pasadena and the hometown pride expressed by its residents, several requests have been made of the city council to name a street, alley, or another monument in Eddie’s honor.
A strip of curb on North Allen Avenue, near the former Van Halen home on Las Lunas Street has served as a makeshift memorial site since his death, prompting a broader discussion of a local memorial in a non-residential area, according to the city manager.
Over the past week, city staff members have contemplated other possibilities, such as renaming a street or alleyway or placing a public monument in an area associated with the late musician, Mermell said.
Potential sites noted in the staff report include:
- Electric Drive, which abuts the back side of the Raymond Theater at Raymond Avenue and Holly Street. The Raymond Theater was once owned by David Lee Roth’s father and was a location for Van Halen rehearsals;
- A memorial plaque at the former Van Halen family home, on the campus of Pasadena City College, or Hamilton Park in East Pasadena, where the young Van Halen brothers performed;
- A plaque or statue at the Pasadena Convention Center and Civic Auditorium, where the band played several of its earliest concerts; and
- Renaming a walkway between the Civic Auditorium and Exhibition Hall.
“With his passing, Eddie Van Halen’s international recognition as a musical artist is noted for the significant impact he had on the Rock & Roll genre and his legacy is a source of hometown pride for the city,” Mermell wrote.
Lisa Derderian, the city’s public information officer, said that many local residents have fond memories of the Van Halen brothers playing at house parties and performing in small clubs throughout the San Gabriel Valley. Early band names included the Broken Combs, the Trojan Rubber Company, and Genesis. Van Halen signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1977 after the company’s president attended one of their gigs.
The guitarist died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. His wife, Janie, was by his side, along with Alex, and Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, whose mother is actress Valerie Bertinelli, to whom Eddie was married from 1981 to 2007.