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Eddie Van Halen Reveals His Cancer Returned Twice Last Year

Eddie Van Halen
Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images

In his first interview in years, Eddie Van Halen discloses that his cancer returned twice last year, that he’s emerged victorious in his battle with alcohol, and that his son Wolfgang reminds him of his own father.

Speaking to Esquire magazine, Van Halen explains that last spring doctors found and removed cancer cells from his throat, and the following fall removed another small chunk of his tongue for the same reason. He explains, “I haven’t talked about this, because I don’t talk about this.” It had previously been thought that the guitar legend had been cancer-free for years following the initial 2000 diagnosis and treatment on his tongue.

Fortunately, the interviewer describes the guitar hero as “the healthiest fifty-seven-year-old I’ve ever seen… young and vital and happy, lean and muscled.” Van Halen also reveals that ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ is the first album he’d ever recorded sober — a change credited in large part to Janie, his wife of three years — and that doing so wrecked hell on his nerves:

“I play a solo, and afterwards I was literally shaking.” Everyone’s going ‘Are you all right?’ And I go, ‘I’m f—-ing nervous.’ ‘Yeah, but you’re Eddie Van Halen,’ they say. And I go, ‘I know who I am, but I’m still nervous.’

Much of the credit for the band’s recent flurry of activity after more than a decade away from record stores and arenas is given to Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang, who joined the band on bass at age 15. He current serves as their “field marshall,” choosing setlists, directing the band through rehearsals and helping select which songs made it to the new album.

When asked what his own departed father, himself a musician, would think if he could see his grandson now, Eddie gets choked up: “Oh, God, don’t make me cry… Sometimes I think Wolfie’s him, reincarnated. He would have been so proud.”

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