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They attained the status of rock superstardom. Two brothers, born in Amsterdam in 1953 and 1955, who became California based rockband Van Halen in 1974. Alex, born Alexander Arthur, plays the drums. His younger brother Eddie, born Edward Lodewijk, performs on guitar. The original line-up of Van Halen also consisted of Michael Anthony Sobolewski on bass and vocalist David Lee Roth.
During the 1970’s and early 1980’s the band was on top and at that time one of the most popular rock acts of the world. Their life stage perfomances were dominated by the flamboyant, hypermasculine persona of frontman Roth and the innovative guitar playing of Eddie. He is generally considered to be one of the ten greatest rock guitarists of the world and by some to be second only to Jimi Hendrix.
Van Halen still performs with three members of the original line-up – the Van Halen brothers and Roth – plus Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass. They were #4 on the Billboard Music’s Top 40 Money Makers 2013 only perceded by Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Roger Waters. Their last gigs so far were in Japan in 2013, where they performed in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka from June 18th until the 26th. However, this summer and autumn Van Halen will be on tour again. The fansite www.van-halen.com announced the band’s 2015 North American Tour from July 5th to October 2nd.
The band’s discography consists of fourteen albums, two compilation albums and 56 singles. Over 80 million copies of their albums were sold all over the world, which makes Van Halen one of the best-selling bands of all time. They received an American Music Award (1992) plus eight nominations, a Grammy Award (1992) plus four nominations, and four MTV Video Music Awards (1984, 1992) plus seven nominations. In 2007 the band entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The musical career of the Van Halen brothers which runs from their childhood in the 1960’s until today is widely described in books and on internetsites.
Eddie was born in Amsterdam on May 5th 1953 and Eddie in Amsterdam on January 26th 1955 to professional clarinettist and saxophonist Jan van Halen (1920-1986) and his wife Eugenie van Beers (1915-2005). Father Jan, born in Amsterdam, emigrated to the Dutch East Indies after World War II where he met his wife Eugenie. Her cradle stood in a little village called Rangkasbetoeng (Rangkasbitung nowadays) in the far western part of Java. This was the administrative centre of the district Lebak in the residency Bantam. It is the same region where Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) witnessed the abuse of the Javanese peasants in the late 1850’s, which provoked him to publish his novel Max Havelaar (1860).
Eugenie van Beers’ mother, also named Eugenie, bore the surname Mafficioli del Castelletto. Her father was of Italian descent, her mother was an Indonesian woman called Roebinem. Eugenie’s father was Frans van Beers. His father’s name is unknown to us. His mother was an unknown Indonesian woman. Eugenie van Beers’ grandfather on mother’s side had an unkown Indonesian mother as well. So you can say that mother Eugenie was of mixed European and Asiatic descent, with at least five out of eight Indonesian great-grandparents.
Jan and Eugenie married in August 1950 and re-emigrated on March 4th 1953 on board of the ship “Sibajak” to Holland, where they settled in Amsterdam. Shortly after the birth of Eddie the family moved to Nijmegen, where they lived at 59 Rozemarijnstraat. On February 22nd 1962 the Van Halen’s moved again, this time by boat across the Atlantic to New York. After which they proceeded on a continent-crossing journey by train to finally settle in California, where they lived in Pasadena at 1881 Las Lunas Street for two decades. It was here that the two Dutch born Indo-Americans started to write music history and the swirling Van Halen story began.
- C.J. Chilvers, The Van Halen Encyclopedia (1999, hardback; 2001, paperback)
- Ian Christe, The Van Halen Saga (Hoboken 2007).
- Kevin Dodds, Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography (Bloomington 2011).
- The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (2001).
- Eddie Van Halen interviewed by Denise Quan on February 13th 2015 at the Smithonian’s National Museum of American History (www.whatitmeanstobeamerican.org/the-takeaway/necessity-is-the-source-of-eddie-van-halens-inventions).
- Van Halen News Desk (www.vhnd.com).
- Rolling Stone (www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/van-halen).
- Wikipedia (English version) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Halen; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Van_Halen; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Van_Halen).
- IndischHistorisch.nl (www.indischhistorisch.nl).
Text: Roel de Neve | Edited by Anne Karthaus
Download (.pdf) the Indo Dutch ancestry of Alex and Eddie van Halen.