Select Page

engaging with guts…

by | Oct 19, 2020 | engage, Guts, Van Halen

I had already planned to get back to harder rock this week – I fake the love of the others music but hard rock is my first love. Following Feet was going to Guts – as in:  “You are going to need them to get your own and other Feet to move”.  AC/DC was what I had planned to accompany the week… and then Eddie Van Halen died.  Like many I was stunned… and posted something about it to LinkedIn – you know the professional site for “work”… and it got 1000 views and loads of comments.  Similarly, just about every place I went I found people just in a state of shock, surprise, and a number of hard rockers crying.. before busting out laughing with stories about Eddie. My favorite station on Sirius has been playing Van Halen 24 X 7… so, like all good leaders, I have adapted… Van Halen it is… 

… and for those of you who don’t like straight-up hard rock, don’t tune this out. I promise to mix in some rare songs that are softer, some jazz that he actually studied, and some great stories from his life that I think are worth knowing – not just for leadership but because they say a lot about the human condition.  I have recently become close friends with a woman from the Netherlands, and her first comment on my post was about where Eddie was born… and like most ugly Americans, I had never really thought about it.  He is the younger brother, both being born in Amsterdam to a mixed-race couple in the ’50s.  She awakened me to the ugly history of the Dutch/Indonesian wars that were AFTER World War II,

Jan Van Halen was a musician – clarinet, Sax, etc, and like all musicians… barely was making a living at it, but made it through the war being conscripted into the German army after occupation and playing for their troops. He got away from it to the “colony” of Indonesia where he met Eugenia Van Beers – a mixed Indonesian-Dutch and clearly related to the South African colony also. Through the war, the Dutch were slowly pushed out, and they immigrated back to Amsterdam where Alex was born in 1953  and Eddie followed in 1955. He was able to play enough, but they had very little, eventually were lured to the US like so many immigrants, came with 75 gilders in their pocket by ship to New York, and then a 4-day train trip to Pasadena. 

The boys were young boys and sang and performed a little on the trip with their Dad to offset the cost of the trip.  And like many immigrants, their name was mangled to Van (capitalized) Halen… So here there were, in Pasadena California, with a strange last name,.. as junior high students.. “different” ethnic background…in the early 60’s.  To say it was tough is probably an understatement. But they didn’t complain.. music was on all the time, and their parents were supportive with classical music lessons on piano.  They had paper routes to pay for a guitar for Alex and drums for Eddie, but as brothers would do, they wanted the other guys’ stuff…

The beauty of tape is we have many interviews of Eddie, two of which I really was struck by.  He was asked once what was the best piece of advice he received. “My Dad – in Dutch it was “gewoon doorgaan” – which meant “just keep pushing through – don’t let them know you made a mistake.  And, do it twice and smile, that way you think it was planned 😉 ”  The other was with all the great musicians, what dead musician would he like to play with?  Without pausing, he said “My Dad”.  Think today about Guts… and what it took to put this family on this trajectory – The Great American Success Story. He did record with his Dad this great old swing tune – and there is a great picture at 1:48.  Big Bad Bill (is Sweet William No) – probably being played again…. 

Share This