Today I’m going to get personal. You see, my hero and one of the biggest influences on my life died last month.
If you frequently read my ramblings, you may have picked up that, professionally speaking, fitness was not my first love. Rather, it was music. I went through all the phases: obsession; lessons; practice; dreams…ultimately I came back to reality. Though I still perform, the life of a professional musician wasn’t to be.
The year was 1977. I was less than ten years old and obsessed with superheroes, dinosaurs, and monster movies. Then, my dad took my brothers and me to our first rock concert: KISS. The theatrics, energy and music blew me away! A KISS concert was like seeing all of my favorite things come to life. I saw demons blowing fire and spitting blood. Spacemen shooting rockets from their guitars. I knew right then what I wanted to do: play Guitar in a rock band.
I explored other artists and musical styles over those early years as I practiced guitar and worked to “hone my craft.” I learned all the classics: 1950’s rock, the California hippie sounds of the ’60s, and ’70s, alternative rock, and pop. My influences included Ace Frehley, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, and an unknown (at the time) band from Ireland named U2. I was hooked and by fifteen had joined my first band.
Shortly after, my best friend and bandmate Mike introduced me to the sonic wizard Edward Lodewijk van Halen. The world knows him as Eddie van Halen, and he changed everything for countless musicians, myself included.
I don’t need to go into how he changed music forever or how his endless tone-chasing fueled his innovation. Others have done a great job of this already through eulogy and tribute. EVH was a textbook example of the American dream: an immigrant who didn’t even speak English when he arrived. If you want to watch an interview that summarizes his life and accomplishments and gives you a peek into the mind and heart of this musical maverick, CLICK HERE.
Eddie showed the world that anything was possible. He could effortlessly create sounds previously unimagined on the guitar. But perhaps the most important thing he showed me was his smile.
When Eddie performed, there was always a joyous expression on his face. A grin that meant you could do anything if you apply yourself, and that even hard work could be something you loved. He always seemed to be happy as he played, and that was huge to a kid like me who lived within his head when it wasn’t in the clouds. You may remember a music video of the Van Halen song Hot For Teacher. While other boys my age focused on the hot girls, the thing I always remember was Eddie walking on top of a table through the chaos with that fantastic smile playing an incredible solo.
How does this relate to you and your fitness journey? Well, I like to think that even though my ultimate career path has changed from music to fitness, Eddie showed me how to be happy and thankful that I can spend my life doing the thing I love most: Helping people become the best versions of themselves possible. That puts a smile on my face, and I have Eddie to thank for the inspiration to do it.