Necessity Is the Source of Eddie Van Halen’s Inventions

The Path to Rock Superstardom Involves Immigration, Experimentation, and the Occasional Electrocution

Rock legend Eddie Van Halen didn’t set out to change the way the guitar was played. But, as he explained to a standing-room-only crowd at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, music shaped his life—and his life shaped his music—in unexpected ways from his very first performances.

Van Halen’s father Dutch father was a classical musician who “traveled the world making music,” said Van Halen. He met Van Halen’s Indonesian mother while performing in her home country just after World War II. They got married and moved to Holland, where …