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The 10 Best Eddie Van Halen Songs

Hear our selection of the guitar legend’s best songs

Narendra Kusnur Oct 07, 2020

Guitarist Eddie Van Halen. Photo: Carl Lender/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

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Guitarist Eddie Van Halen didn’t seem to believe in the concept of favorite songs. In an interview, he once pointed out, “Every song is like a kid. How can you have that many kids and have a favorite? Which one do I like to hang most with?”

While what he says is true, some songs indeed became more popular than others in the public eye. Following the guitar hero’s death on October 6th, we choose 10 such songs by his band Van Halen. Seven of these feature vocalist David Lee Roth, who was with the group during its most fruitful phase till 1986. Two have vocals by Sammy Hagar, and one by Gary Cherone, who joined for the Van Halen III album.

In all these songs, the Eddie Van Halen stamp is evident, as he proves why he’s considered to be one of the greatest rock guitarists ever. Here’s our list.

1. “Jump” – 1984 (1984)

For many rock fans, this is the definitive Van Helen anthem. Though it has a guitar part, it is different from other Van Halen songs because of its prominent use of keyboards by Eddie. The vocal hook, “Ah, might as well jump {jump), go ahead and jump” became a singalong favorite. Vocalist David Lee Roth had written this song for his martial teacher Benny ‘The Jet” Urquidez, and it became a sporting favorite too.

2. “Panama” – 1984 (1984)

According to Roth, this song was written for a car called ‘Panama Express.’ The lines go, “Ain’t nothing like it, her shiny machine, got the feel for the wheel, keep the moving parts clean.” The video shows both Roth and Eddie jumping in characteristic fashion, with the latter playing one of the most brilliant riffs on his custom-made Frankenstrat guitar.

3. “Eruption,” followed by “You Really Got Me” – Van Halen (1978)

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The original studio version from the band’s self-titled debut is just a minute and 42 seconds long. and it segues into “You Really Got Me.” Radio stations often played both songs together. However, Eddie is known for his long solo versions of Eruption.” His 13-minute rendition in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1986 is considered legendary.

4. “Why Can’t This Be Love” – 5150 (1986)

The first single to feature vocalist Sammy Hagar, it was another of those songs to prominently use keyboards, played by Eddie on his favorite Oberheim OB-8 analog synthesizer. For an unexplained reason, this song became a favorite among American fighter pilots during the Gulf war of 1991.

5. “Runnin’ With The Devil” – Van Halen (1978)

Though it was commonly interpreted that this song was about Satan, Van Halen insisted it was about the life of a touring band. It was one of the big successes from the debut album and cemented the group’s place among acts to look out for. Eddie’s very brief solos, appearing twice, are melodic and crisp.

6. “Mean Street” – Fair Warning (1981)

The opening track of the 1981 album Fair Warning, “Mean Street” had an intro that was very typically used by hard rock bands those days. Though the original version featured Roth, and some great work by drummer Alex Valen Halen and bassist Michal Anthony, a 1998 live version in Sydney sees Eddie at his best. Gary Cherone had come in as the band’s vocalist in that version, having replaced Hagar.

7. “Without You” – Van Halen III (1998)

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The first single to feature vocalist Cherone, it was used in the album Van Halen III. The Eddie Van Halen parts went off very well with fans, though many also felt the song was quite under-rated. The video, shot in the Ice Hotel in Sweden, is said to be the costliest for the band.

8. “Unchained” – Fair Warning (1981)

More than being a fan favorite, this song from the Roth days was loved by musicians because of its use of flanging, an audio effect produced by mixing two identical signals together, one slightly delayed. The official video was shot at a live concert and was popular in its day.

9. “Hot For Teacher” – 1984 (1984)

A hit from the album 1984, Van Halen opted for a humorous yet controversial video, just like they did with their take on Roy Orbison’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman” in their previous album Diver Down. While both Roth and Eddie are naturally fabulous, a highlight is the double bass drumming by Alex. Interestingly, as per the video’s script, Alex becomes a gynecologist at the end.

10. “Top Of The World” – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

Another gem featuring Hagar, the highlight of this song is the guest appearance by Steve Lukather, guitarist of the band Toto who joins Eddie. The main guitar riff was actually played first in a live performance by Van Halen in 1979 and influenced a part of “Jump” too. The song stands out because of its melodic nature and clear guitar lines.

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