The world lost a rock god in Eddie Van Halen today, and his death was especially felt in Indonesia where the guitarist’s roots have been a source of immense pride.
Van Halen, widely recognized as one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, died at 65 yesterday after a long battle with cancer. As tributes poured in from all around the world, Indonesians mourned as if they lost one of their own, owing to the common knowledge here that Van Halen was part-Indonesian.
Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was born on Jan. 26, 1955 in Amsterdam to a Dutch father and a half-Indonesian mother, Eugenia van Beers, who was born in Rangkasbitung, in what was then the Dutch East Indies.
When Van Halen was seven, his family left the Netherlands to escape racial prejudice, particularly targeted at his mother, his older brother Alex, and himself. They moved to the US, where the brothers Van Halen would eventually form the band bearing their surname.
Van Halen’s Indonesian heritage and his family’s story of overcoming racial prejudice also inspired pride among Asian immigrants in the West.
Though Van Halen seldom openly spoke about his ethnicity (safe for a couple of interviews in which he confirmed his mother’s Indonesian heritage), his legend will forever live on in rock-obsessed Indonesia.
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