The Pasadena City council, at their Oct. 26 meeting, considered the possibility of building a permanent memorial to honor Eddie Van Halen. The legendary guitarist and a former resident of Pasadena died Oct.6, after a long battle with cancer.
The council took a recommendation from City Manager Steve Mermell, for the board to consider finding a suitable way of commemorating the talented musician.
“With his passing, Eddie Van Halen’s international recognition as a musical artist is noted for the significant impact he had on the Rock & Roll genre and his legacy is a source of hometown pride for the city,” Mermell wrote.
Since his death, pop up memorials have been erected on Allen Street, and in front of Van Halen’s home on Las Lunas street. These memorials, together with many phone calls, letters and emails to staff, have incited a discussion about the possibility of a local memorial.
“This is not just a tribute to an amazing musician,” City Councilmember-elect Felicia Williams told Pasadena Now. “It is also a chance to hear the cultural story about the Van Halen brothers and their experience in the U.S. and Pasadena Unified School District. It is an inspiration for us to embrace our differences and encourage success in all of us.”
The council has looked into the feasibility of renaming a street or an alleyway and considered both Van Halen’s home and near the Raymond Theatre in Old Pasadena. The theatre was once owned by Lee Roth’s father, and it was a rehearsal site for the band.
A second option considered at the council meeting is a public monument. Council members agree that it’s an important recognition for Pasadena to make, and turn Van Halen’s childhood home into a historic landmark.
Randa Schmalfeld and Julie Kimura, both Pasadena residents, have raised $5,200 through the fundraising platform gofundme.com hoping to have a street or alley named in honor of the late rock star.
“We are delighted that the City Council is moving so quickly to consider a dedicated public space here in Van Halen’s hometown,” said Schmalfeld to Pasadena Now. “We envision a place where fans can forever honor and celebrate the brilliance of Eddie Van Halen and the phenomenal success of Pasadena’s hometown band.”
Many Pasadena residents have a lot of hometown pride in Van Halen. He was an extraordinary artist, particularly recognized for reinventing heavy metal and fusing it with pop for a new rock & roll sound.
“The overwhelmingly positive response to our campaign demonstrates the desire of our community to honor Eddie and his bandmates,” said Schmalfeld. “We are hopeful that the council will decide in our favor and we are looking forward to the next steps in forever honoring Pasadena’s favorite Rock Stars.”
The placement of public monuments falls under the jurisdiction of the City Manager, under the city’s monument policy.
Councilmember Victor Gordo suggested that they put together a group of staff with proponents and neighbors to figure out what an appropriate recognition might be.
City officials affirmed that an alley or street near the iconic guitarist’s boyhood home is not a good way to go because it could end up with more noise impact in the city.
At its next board of trustees meeting, Pasadena City College will also discuss a memorial for Van Halen. There has also been an inquiry for a virtual concert to raise funds to build a statue of Van Halen at the Pasadena Center Operating Company.
Van Halen was born in Amsterdam in1955 and moved to Pasadena with his family in 1962. Being a mixed-race child, whose mother was from Indonesia, and speaking little English, he remembered his first friends in America were Black and protected him from being bullied by the white kids at school.
After graduating from Pasadena high school, Van Halen and his brother Alex attended Pasadena City College. There Eddie met David Lee Roth, and the two started a group called Broken Comb, and later Mammoth. They performed on the Sexson Auditorium stage at PCC in the early 1970s.
According to Michelle Nati, in her 2018 Pasadena Now article, the band Van Halen honed their sound at backyard parties and high school dances before making their way to the Sunset Strip and eventually being signed by Warner Bros Records.
After the band became famous, Van Halen would play with his back to the audience because he was worried other guitarists would steal his method.
Van Halen became known for the tapping guitar solo technique, allowing rapid arpeggios to be played with two hands on the fretboard.
The band entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. The Rolling Stone magazine ranked Van Halen number.8 on a list of the 100 best guitarists.
When Van Halen died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica Oct.6, his family was by his side.
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