Music lovers around the world mourn the loss of iconic Van Halen rock star Eddie Van Halen. And while many today honor his legacy as an all-time great guitarist, fans are also highlighting past interviews that described his early years of mixed-racist encounters with his traumatic racism and discrimination.
Van Helen was the son of Dutch and Indonesian immigrants battling throat cancer at the age of 65 and spent his childhood in the Netherlands. His former bandmate David Lee Roth, a fellow rock superstar, once revealed on the podcast “WTF with Mark Maron” how painful the experience was for young Van Halen and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen.
In a 2019 interview, Roth described how poorly Van Helens’ parents were treated in the 1950s due to their mixed-breed relationship.
“It was a big deal. Those homebuyers grew up in a sinister racist environment where they actually had to leave the country,” Roth said in the podcast.
He said the brothers, often referred to as “half-breed” in the Netherlands, still met with difficult circumstances after immigration to the US
“Then they came to America and didn’t speak English as a first language in the early 60s. Wow,” Roth told Marrone. “So that kind of sparking, that kind of stuff, that runs deep.”
The brothers’ mother met her father, Jan, a traveling musician in Eugenia, Indonesia, when it was under Dutch rule. Soon after World War II, the couple decided to relocate to the Netherlands, where rock stars were born.
Eugenia was regarded as a “second-class citizen,” Van Halen said in an interview in 2017 with music journalist Dennis Cowan for the Smithsonian’s American Museum of American History. The family packed up and left for the US in 1962, making the trek by boat for nine days, before settling in the Pasadena, California, area.
His early days in America were tough, Van Halen told Cowan. The family lived in a house shared with two other families. While her mother worked as a maid, her father worked as a watchman and also maintained a music career. The environment at the time was not particularly inviting to young migrants, and Van Helen described the first day of his school as “absolutely horrific”.
“We already went to that Holland, you know, the first day, the first class. Now, you’re in another country where you can’t speak the language, and you don’t know about anything at all and It was beyond intimidating. ” “He said.” I don’t even know how to explain but I think it makes us stronger as you should have been. “
He told Cowan that the school he attended at the time was still kept separate and because he could not speak the language, he was considered a “minority” student.
“My first friends in America were black,” Eddie told the journalist. “It was really blondes who were bullies. They would tear my homework and paper, sand me the playground, eat all those things, and the Black kids stuck to me.”
Despite facing racism and discrimination, Van Helen told Cowan that looking back on his life, he was grateful for his experience as an immigrant.
“Coming here with about 50 dollars and a piano, not being able to speak the language where we are, if that’s not the American dream, I don’t know what is,” he said in the interview.
Indonesian social media users have paid tribute to Van Halen, who is seen as a source of pride for many in the community.