Happy birthday, Eddie Van Halen.
On Tuesday — which would have been the late rock star’s 66th birthday — a colorful mural of the guitarist is set to be unveiled outside Guitar Center’s flagship store in Hollywood. Painted by Los Angeles artist Robert Vargas, the 17-by-105-foot portrait depicts the musician shredding his signature “Frankenstrat” guitar.
Van Halen died in October at age 65 after battling throat cancer.
“Eddie was one of my creative heroes,” Vargas said in a statement. “When I was young, the debut Van Halen record was the first album I ever owned. He influenced me over the years in so many different ways.
“As soon as the news hit of his passing, I knew I had to do something creative to memorialize him, and Guitar Center was the obvious venue. Right here on the Sunset Strip, where the band made their bones — I can’t think of a better place for this tribute to him, and I thank Guitar Center for giving me the canvas to share it with the world.”
Located on Sunset Boulevard, Guitar Center’s Hollywood location already boasts multiple tributes to the “Runnin’ With the Devil” hitmaker, including instrumental memorabilia and Van Halen’s handprints, the latter of which are featured prominently outdoors on the store’s star-studded RockWalk. The building also bears a mural of another guitar god, Jimi Hendrix.
In recent months, California and its City of Angels have seen a number of murals go up in honor of fallen entertainment heroes, including screen icon Chadwick Boseman and Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who died with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter accident exactly one year ago.
Upon his death last year, a slew of rockers saluted the Van Halen co-founder on social media. Heartfelt tributes poured in from Van Halen lead vocalist Sammy Hagar, Kiss musicians and singer-songwriter Billy Idol, as well as Van Halen’s son, bassist Wolf Van Halen, and ex-wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli.
“Happy 66th Birthday, Pop,” Wolf Van Halen wrote Tuesday on Instagram. “I wish I could give you the biggest hug and celebrate it with you. I love and miss you so much it hurts. I don’t even know how to put it into words. I’m doing my best to hold it together, but goddammit it’s really tough being here without you.”
Van Halen fans are encouraged to visit Guitar Center’s Instagram and YouTube pages for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the mural, which was scheduled to be completed and signed by Vargas at 1 p.m. today.
“When you work hard at something, you can reach your full potential,” Vargas said in a statement. “Be true to your art, and your art will be true to you. I had the chance to meet Eddie a few years back, and because he and I connected on the nature of art and creativity, painting him here is therapeutic.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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