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October 7, 2020 9:50 PM EDT
Simmons is a founding member of Kiss

Eddie Van Halen, who died Oct. 6 at 65, wasn’t just a guitar god. He was a gentle soul. The first time I saw him playing with his brother Alex at the Starwood club, in 1976, he was smiling like he had just won the lottery. The music coming out of his guitar was awe-inspiring—I was kicked in the nuts. The word classical describes Andrés Segovia and people like that. But what Eddie did was classic.

He never played the rock-star game or put down other bands. It was always just the joy. And he brought joy to millions of people.

I ran into him on Sunset Boulevard after he got cancer. He was joking, smoking a cigarette, God bless him. He opened his mouth and said, “Hey, man, check out my upper palate. It’s gone.” I was horrified. But he shrugged and said, “Oh well.”

They say a dog is a man’s best friend. For Eddie, it was his guitar. Eddie’s music is going to last forever—and so are all the guitar players who worshipped the ground he walked on. There’s never going to be another like him. —as told to Andrew R. Chow

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