Eddie Van Halen: Dad Told Me To Drink Before Gigs, Tells All In Esquire Interview

The legendary guitar player talks about cancer, alcohol abuse and other elements of his extreme rock n' roll lifestyle.

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Van Halen, 57, recently took his public confrontation with alcoholism to a new level: The legendary guitar player dumped some of the responsibility on his father. (Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
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Van Halen, 57, recently took his public confrontation with alcoholism to a new level: The legendary guitar player dumped some of the responsibility on his father. (Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Eddie Van Halen, one of the greatest living guitarists best known for his radio hits Jump, Hot For Teacher and Panama in addition to one of the most iconic guitar solos in the history of rock and roll, Eruption, has spent the lest decade speaking openly about his struggle to curb his alcohol abuse problem.

But there's still more for the guitar god to share.

Van Halen, 57, recently took his public confrontation with his alcohol abuse a step further in a tell-all interview with Esquire: The legendary guitar player displaced responsibility for his alcohol problems on his father. He also revealed several other personal addictions and struggles he's been facing over the past decade including a battle against cancer.

The funny thing is, about the whole alcoholism thing: It wasn't really the partying. It was like -- I don't mean to blame my dad, but when I started playing in front of people, I'd get so damn nervous, said Van Halen. I asked him, 'Dad, how do you do it?' That's when he handed me the cigarette and the drink. And I go, Oh, this is good! It works! For so long, it really did work. And I certainly didn't do it to party. I would do blow and I would drink, and then I would go to my room and write music.

Van Halen also speaks briefly about battling cancer. I'm not a drunk anymore, but since they cut out my tongue, I sound drunk, he says. Van Halen, who was known for resting a cigarette between the strings of his guitar's head, still hasn't curbed his addiction to nicotine. He's smoking e-cigarettes now.

Van Halen doesn't hold back much in the interview, which spans a variety of topics including family life and his four-decade career in music. He openly talks about the extreme measures he's taken to curb his addictive habits, revealing that he became addicted to Klonopin while trying to stop drinking.

At heart, this one-of-a-kind guitar player from the 1970s is an extremist -- fulfilling all the stereotypes associated with the high-velocity, ultra-rambunctious acts of his era. Despite his wild days shredding on his guitar for hours a day, touring and drinking heavily, Van Halen appears to have settle down a bit more, using his extreme tendencies to bettereddie, himself.

You know, people say with that twelve-step program you will succeed. I disagree. When they say, 'You can't say, I will never drink again,' I can honestly say I will never drink again, said Van Halen. It's a whole new world. I'm fifty-seven years old and I know I'm not going to live to be 114, so I can't say I'm halfway done. It's a sullen truth, but this is the first record I've made sober.

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