Did The GRAMMYs Fail An Icon With Shallow Tribute To Eddie Van Halen?


The Recording Academy drew heavy criticism from the rock community for its starkly brief tribute of Eddie Van Halen during Sunday night's GRAMMYs broadcast.

Despite a near four-hour broadcast and an understandably prolonged and genuinely beautiful 'In Memoriam' segment, the GRAMMYs showed just 20 seconds or so of archival footage of "Eruption" to acknowledge the passing of one of the most impactful musicians of the 20th century.

The complaints wouldn't be worth talking about today were it not for the show's dutiful, heartrending performance tributes to rock 'n' roll revolutionary Little Richard, folk music hero John Prine and country/pop superstar Kenny Rogers. But the time devoted to those performances (some of the best moments of the night) only made the Van Halen deficit that much more evident.

Rock fans are conditioned to expect nothing from the GRAMMYs, but even this was surprising when you consider Eddie's transcendent impact on rock and pop music.

Many viewers only realized their was a Van Halen tribute at all after seeing complaints at how compulsory it seemed.

Eddie's one-time Van Halen bandmate Gary Cherone openly wondered how an organization devoted to music could gloss over someone who "reimagined" how the electric guitar is played and "literally changed the course of rock 'n' roll."

Fans suggested GRAMMY darlings Foo Fighters could easily have been booked to run a Van Halen song — much like Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak took on the Little Richard medley to kick off the segment. Not to mention the fact that there were many accomplished guitar players at the festivities that day.

Eddie Trunk called the hurried tribute a low point "even by Grammy standards," and pointed out the producers' lost opportunity at not booking Van Halen's son, Wolfgang Van Halen, to perform. Trunk pointed out that Wolfgang is currently boasting the No. 1 rock song in the country, "Distance," which is about his late-father.

Furthermore, Wolfgang is donating proceeds earned from "Distance" to the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, which supports music education in underserved communities — a cause also championed by the Recording Academy.

The snub is equally perplexing when you consider that Van Halen is responsible for selling some 80 million albums worldwide in Eddie's career, second only to Rogers among the 'In Memoriam' tributes.

Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid was initially speechless at the news. He later added the Eddie "embodied the pure joy of living through playing the guitar," which is part of the reason that he was so beloved. Roy Orbison Jr. promised to tell the GRAMMYs producers "directly next time I meet any of them" that the Van Halen tribute was "pathetic." Chris Jericho told the GRAMMYs where to stick it. And Toto's Steve Lukather pointed out that the Record Academy has a history of selective ignorance; he's felt it himself.

Despite the outcry, Guitar World notes that guitar players did clean up on several big awards Sunday. The Strokes won for 'Best Rock Album.' Body Count won for 'Best Metal Performance.' Thundercat took home a statue for 'Best Urban Contemporary Album.' H.E.R. won 'Song of the Year' for the second straight GRAMMYs.

Photo: Getty Images


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