A Farewell To The King

By Bernard Griess

Bernard is the writer / guitarist for the hard rock band , Undone He has a been a content creator for Total Order Magzine since its launch 6 years ago . This is his first column for Total Order .
A couple of years ago while in the middle of one of those mindless social media scrolls we are all far too guilty of these days , I happened upon a video that really had an effect on me . It was a video of Edward Van Halen . It wasn ’ t one of those countless clips of his devastating guitar prowess on full display , though I , like many others , are certainly shameless in our enjoyment of those . It was just a cell phone video of Edward , the only face visible in the frame , looking into the camera and saying just a few words . His manner , of course was playful as always . But what he said blasted through my soul and resonated , though maybe not in a way you ’ d expect .
“ Eddie Van Halen here …. telling you … Keep playin ’, man . Gotta keep playin ’. It ’ s the only thing there is- music , man ! Keep playin ’, alright ? I ’ m gonna come lookin ’ for ya if ya don ’ t .”
I laughed , of course at first . It ’ s a glimpse at the guy we ’ d all imagined he was , the one his loved ones talked about . Just a guy that loved playing music . It ’ s a short clip , and I kept finding myself watching it over the next few days . The message was there , and well received obviously , but why did I keep coming back to it ? Why was this little good natured and fun message from King Edward continually bouncing off the inside of my skull ? Why was I having a moment , much like young Ralphie Parker in “ A Christmas
Story ”, locking himself in the bathroom , frantically using his decoder pen trying to figure out the secret message from Little Orphan Annie ?
“ What was Eddie Van Halen trying to say ?!?!”
Then , like a wave , it hit me . Ed wasn ’ t trying to tell me to “ never give up .” He wasn ’ t telling me to keep “ fighting the good fight ”, or “ Keep living the dream ”. ALL of us who write and play music in independent bands or projects have those moments . Those moments where we wonder : Should I keep doing this ? Is it worth it ? The money , the time , the stress and aggravation . Is . It . Worth . It ? But those are not the questions that Ed ’ s message were addressing . It was far more simplistic . It was about love .
I don ’ t play the guitar for accolades . I don ’ t play the guitar to try
to be cool , or try to make money , or to try to attain some sort of fame . I ’ m not trying to impress anyone . I ’ m not trying to make any profound statement .
I play the guitar because I love it ,
I and it makes me happy . That ’ s it . That ’ s the message .
When Ed passed this year , in this awful year that has taken so much from so many , I was devastated . I know everyone that loved him was . Of course . People who aren ’ t into the arts , who are unaffected on a cellular level by the contributions of songs or paintings or literature of others , are also always the ones that never seem to understand why people can be so upset over the passing of someone they ’ ve never met . s the message .
“ Who cares ?!?. Five cops or eight soldiers died yesterday , why doesn ’ t anyone talk about that ?!” You know the ones I ’ m talking about . My response to that has always been the same . One of these scenarios is not mutually exclusive . I can be
sad about both . The difference is , someone like EVH had a tangible impact on my life . I spent COUNTLESS hours with Ed . His contributions not only musically , but his innovations of the instrument I love have touched my life in ways I ’ m STILL learning about .
It ’ s sad when anyone loses their life , and certainly someone in the line of duty in service of their nation or their community . But when someone passes who ’ s art ( and in Ed ’ s case his innovations too ) has had such a profound impact on you , it ’ s like losing a friend , a family member . You feel like it was someone you knew personally . And in a way , you did . What ’ s more personal than someone ’ s art ? Their life ’ s work ?
On the day he passed , my wife and I were sitting on the couch . We are both hyper sensitive people , so we were very sad . She
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