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Eddie Van Halen’s 20 Greatest Solos

“Eruption,” “Panama,” “Right Now” and more — the quintessential modern guitar god’s most memorable six-string feats

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It’s hard to imagine what rock & roll would sound like without Eddie Van Halen. Like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton before him, he single-handedly (or perhaps, in his case, double-handedly) changed the vocabulary of guitar for a generation. His pyrotechnic finger-tapping, elastic dive-bombs, and bursts of melody redefined the guitar solo and inspired legions of copycats in the process. But no matter what he was playing, he did it with heart. To honor the late guitar hero, who died Tuesday at age 65, we’ve selected 20 of his greatest solos — from unforgettable licks to genuine “how’d he do that?” head-scratchers — that show off his brilliance.

From Rolling Stone US

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“Humans Being” (1996)

One of the last gasps of Van Hagar, “Humans Being” was written and recorded at a time when the band and its singer were at loggerheads. And make no mistake — Twister soundtrack contribution “Humans Being” is far from an A-level Van Halen song. The solo, on the other hand, is pretty stellar, kicking off with a hooky eight-bar segment chock full of trademark Eddie-isms, from tapped passages to whammy-bar squeals, before downshifting into a longer and looser instrumental section that comes off like a more languid take on the “we’re runnin’ a little bit hot tonight” breakdown in “Panama,” and that’s studded with sliding octaves and police-siren–like dissonance. What’s more, later on in the song Ed reprises the entire first part of the solo verbatim, just for the hell of it. “Humans Being” hit Number One on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart in May of 1996; roughly three weeks later, Hagar was out of the band. R.B.

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“China Town” (2012)

Similar to Women and Children First’s “Romeo Delight,” the rampaging “China Town” finds Van Halen playing it fast and heavy just ‘cause they can. Which also means that, in classic VH style, the solo is pure Eddie unleashed — and, in some spots, almost playful, from the “horse whinny” whammy-bar manipulations that crop up in his main solo and outro lead, to the loopy guitar-and-bass unison tapping phrases that kick off the tune and reappear later on. “A lot of people thought that I used a harmonizer or octave box on the intro to that song, but that is just [bassist] Wolfgang [Van Halen] and me,” Ed told Guitar World. The song is probably as much fun to play as it is to listen to, which made it one of the few A Different Kind of Truth cuts to be performed regularly on Van Halen’s 2012 and 2015 tours. T.B.