Jason Becker Remembers Eddie Van Halen in Heartfelt Video from 1996
The guitar aces only meeting was documented as Van Halen dropped by to film a promotional video for ALS awareness
In an endearing throwback video released to remember his friend and formative influence, guitarist-composer Jason Becker is seen spending his entire day with the late guitar legend Eddie Van Halen at the former’s home in California in August 1996.
Dropping by to shoot a promotional video raising awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) – which cut short Becker’s meteoric rise as a guitarist who’d worked with the likes of Marty Friedman and David Lee Roth in the early Nineties – Van Halen is his down-to-earth self in the previously unreleased footage.
Becker, who communicates and creates music via a system invented by his father Gary, says about finding out that Van Halen was dropping by, “It was great, but a little bitter-sweet. We wouldn’t be able to jam together or really talk.” In an email interview, Becker recounts how Van Halen spent time playing on a guitar, talking about music and hung out with the family for the whole day. “That was actually the only time we hung out together. We talked on the phone and we emailed a lot. He always invited me to shows too, which some of my family went to and spent time with him backstage. But, back then I was weak and trying to relearn how to live with a breathing tube, and how to communicate with the system my dad invented for me,” Becker says over email.
It’s now been nearly three decades since Becker has been living with ALS and continues to compose music and actively be part of the music world. Back in 1996, Becker is visibly excited to be around Van Halen every moment of the way, often smiling and gesturing as the latter converses. An incendiary guitar player who had already taken the world by storm through the Eighties, Eddie Van Halen was also influential for Becker: “It was his huge energy, aggression, personality, fun and not caring about any rules. His touch was so in-your-face. The brown sound tone felt so good. He re-invented the guitar, and it all came from his big heart and personality.”
Becker channels a bit of the guitar virtuoso even today, most recently on the 2018 solo album Triumphant Hearts. The instrumental rock/prog record features a host of other guitar heroes who have supported Becker along the years just like Van Halen – Friedman, Joe Satriani, Jeff Loomis, Steve Vai, Uli Jon Roth, Paul Gilbert and more. Becker says about the encouragement he’s received along the way from the music community, “They feel the pain of one of their brothers not being able to play anymore. There are so many guitar players and musicians who gave their time and love on my latest album, Triumphant Hearts. I think most musicians have the compassion Eddie had. It just comes out in different ways. Eddie couldn’t hold back from expressing it in a big way.”
Watch the video of Becker meeting Eddie Van Halen in 1996 below.