The Wake-Up Call Alex Van Halen Got After Losing His Father

Many rock and roll musicians and their crews are notorious for their excessive alcohol and drug consumption, especially on tours. It has become an almost inseparable part of rock concerts, as it is a trend that has existed for years. News headlines about artists entering rehab are also pretty common. While the rock and roll culture has implicitly encouraged substance use, it is also a coping mechanism for most musicians to deal with tiring schedules and constant pressure to succeed.

Unfortunately, experimenting with drugs and alcohol has impacted the lives of numerous performers across all genres. It has damaged careers, caused significant health problems and early deaths. Fortunately, some musicians have been determined to seek treatment and continue their lives by releasing more music, reconsolidating their careers, and living healthier lives.

The Van Halen brothers, Alex and Eddie, were two of the many prominent artists struggling with alcohol for years. They were introduced to it at a very early age by their father, who was an alcoholic. However, the brothers were very aware of the detrimental effects of alcohol on their health and musical efforts. Yet, Alex Van Halen had failed to battle his addiction until he experienced a sad incident.

His Father’s Death Alerted Alex Van Halen To Quit Drinking

Alex and Eddie Van Halen’s father, Jan Van Halen, was also a musician and a major influence on both artists. Despite his positive effect on them, Jan also introduced Alex and Eddie to alcohol and tobacco in their early teens. In an interview with Esquire in 2012, Eddie Van Halen recalled how he first started drinking.

“The funny thing is, about the whole alcoholism thing: It wasn’t really the partying,” he said, sharing that he just needed alcohol to release his tension and comfortably play on the stage. “It was like — I don’t mean to blame my dad, but when I started playing in front of people, I’d get so damn nervous. I asked him, ‘Dad, how do you do it?’ That’s when he handed me the cigarette and the drink. And I go, ‘Oh, this is good! It works!'”

He continued by explaining how his addiction also contributed to his creative process since he would drink and then go to his room to work on music. He recalled, “For so long, it really did work. And I certainly didn’t do it to party. I would do blow, and I would drink, and then I would go to my room and write music.”

When they became one of the world’s biggest bands during the 1980s, the brothers’ alcohol consumption had begun taking its toll. So, they were heavy drinkers during the height of their career with Van Halen. In an interview he gave to Modern Drummer before Eddie’s death, which was published after his passing, Alex Van Halen discussed the realization that changed their life.

“We spent the first 30 years of our lives trying to cloud what reality was,” he admitted. “But by the time you’re 30, you’d better change your ways, or you ain’t going to make it any further. I believe we’re very lucky to be able to do this — to make music and make a living at it and to share it with people. We’re very lucky, so don’t f*ck it up.”

His father’s death in 1986 became a wake-up call for Alex Van Halen. He remembered, “When our dad passed away, after our long life of touring and making music where there was alcohol involved, I looked at him, and unspoken I said, ‘I’ll try to make it better.’ So I quit. You do have an obligation and responsibility to work without artificial inspiration.”

So, after his father passed away, Alex Van Halen gave up drinking, which changed the course of his life. However, the late guitarist Eddie Van Halen was not as resilient as his brother. Although Eddie also tried to battle his alcohol addiction for years, he relapsed several times. The musician finally managed to quit drinking after entering rehabilitation in 2007.