Music fans around the world are mourning the loss of iconic Van Halen rock star Eddie Van Halen. And while many today honor his legacy as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, fans also point to past interviews describing his encounters with painful racism and discrimination due to his mixed race in his. first years.
Van Halen, who died of throat cancer at age 65 on Tuesday, was the son of Dutch and Indonesian immigrants and spent his childhood in the Netherlands. His former teammate David Lee Roth, another rock superstar, once revealed on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast how painful the experience has been for young Van Halen and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen.
In the 2019 interview, Roth described how poorly the Van Halens’ parents were treated due to their mixed race relationship in the 1950s.
“It was a big problem. These homeboys grew up in a horrific racist environment all the way to where they had to leave the country, ”Roth said in the podcast.
He added that the brothers, often referred to as “mixed race” in the Netherlands, still faced difficult circumstances after immigrating to the United States.
“Then they came to America and didn’t speak English as their first language in the early ’60s. Wow,” Roth told Maron. “So that kind of sparks, that kind of stuff, it goes deep. “
The brothers’ mother, Eugenia, met their father, Jan, a traveling musician, in Indonesia under Dutch rule. Shortly after World War II, the couple decided to move to the Netherlands, where the rock stars were born.
Eugenia has been treated as a “second-class citizen,” Van Halen said in a 2017 interview with music reporter Denise Quan for the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. The family packed their bags and left for the United States in 1962, making the boat trip for nine days, before settling in the Pasadena, California area.
Their start in the United States was difficult, Van Halen told Quan. The family lived in a house shared with two other families. While her mother worked as a maid, her father found a job as a janitor and also pursued a music career. The environment at the time was not particularly inviting for young immigrants, and Van Halen described his first day of school as “absolutely scary.”
“We’ve been through this in Holland before, you know, first day, first year. Now you’re in a whole other country where you can’t speak the language, and you know absolutely nothing about anything and it was scarier, ”he said. “I don’t even know how to explain but I think it made us stronger because you had to be.” “
He told Quan that the school he attended at the time was still isolated and that because he did not speak the language he was considered a “minority” student.
“My first friends in America were black,” Eddie told the reporter. “In fact, it was the whites who were the bullies. They tore up my homework and papers, made me eat sand on the playground, all that stuff, and the black kids stood for me.
Despite the racism and discrimination he faced, Van Halen told Quan that looking back on his life he was grateful for his immigrant experience.
“Coming here with around $ 50 and a piano, not being able to speak the language, going through everything to get to where we are, if it’s not the American dream, I don’t know what it is”, a- he said in the interview.
Indonesian social media users paid tribute to Van Halen, who is considered a source of pride for many in the community.