Eddie started classical piano training, and won many talent shows as a child. In an ironic twist of fate, Eddie's brother Alex Van Halen started taking guitar lessons and Eddie bought a drum kit. While Eddie was delivering newspapers to pay for his drum kit, Alex would play it. They soon switched instruments permanently.
In 1974 the brothers along with David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony became known as Van Halen. They were signed to Warner Brothers in 1977 and released their self titled debut album on February 8, 1978. Multiplatinum sales and world tours followed. Van Halen's prodigious ability, coupled with his home-brewed arsenal of unusual and unique techniques and unparalleled rhythmic sensibility influenced a generation of guitarists. Unfettered by formality, Van Halen's "if it sounds good, play it" mantra and graceful melodicism propelled him to guitar god status.
Van Halen also played a pivotal role in getting R&B videos played on then rock-dominated MTV. He was called in to lay down a guitar track for the song Beat It from Michael Jackson's breakthrough 1982 album, "Thriller". The combination of Quincy Jones' production and Eddie's guitar work broke new ground, and ushered in yet another musical trend.
Van Halen has done soundtrack work for movies such as Back To The Future and Wild Life, and has recorded with Brian May, Jeff Pocaro, and Thomas Dolby. He built his trademark red and white striped guitar (Originally black and white) by hand, using an imperfect body and neck picked up at a discount. He created and promoted a new signature guitar made by Peavey Guitars in the 1990s.
The 1990s proved to be a rough time for Van Halen. He lost his mother to cancer, was treated for cancer himself, had hip surgery done to correct years of abuse fueled by alcohol, and his band went through their third lead singer.