Wolfgang Says Grammy Request to Play Van Halen Felt ‘Tone-Deaf’
Wolfgang Van Halen says he declined to play his father Eddie Van Halen’s signature guitar piece, “Eruption,” during the Grammy Awards’ “In Memoriam” segment because the request seemed somewhat “tone-deaf.”
“It just didn’t feel right,” the late guitarist’s son tells Rolling Stone. “And I think some people are like, ‘Well, you should have just fucking done it anyway.’ And I don’t think they were really thinking about the emotional attachment to it. And just the fact that it isn’t the right thing to do and something I’m not comfortable with.”
Van Halen added that he’ll continue to “champion” his father and “further his legacy to the ends of the earth.”
He continued: “I’m a little biased, but I think you cannot argue the impact that three guitar players had on the history of the instrument. And that’s Les Paul, Jimi Hendrix, and my dad. And so when something like this happens, you think he would be deserving of a bit more time.”
A Grammy representative declined Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
The widely criticized “In Memoriam” segment featured a 20-second vintage video clip of Eddie Van Halen soloing as one of his famous striped guitars appeared onstage. Kenny Rogers, Little Richard and John Prine were the only artists with longer salutes. Lionel Richie, Bruno Mars and Brandi Carlile, respectively, played two minutes of each artists’ music live.
Following the broadcast, Van Halen wrote on social media: “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 four full performances for others we had lost.”
He added: “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.”
Grammy executive producer Ben Winston then defended the video salute in a Variety interview, saying he suggested “eight or nine guitarists” for a potential tribute to the younger Van Halen’s representatives – but he declined.
In recent weeks, Van Halen has continued to preview his upcoming debut solo LP, recorded under the name Mammoth WVH. The record will feature “You’re to Blame,” “Don’t Back Down,” “Think It Over” and his 2020 debut single, “Distance.”
Think You Know Van Halen?