By: KDKA-TV’s Jennifer Borrasso
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Two Pittsburghers who knew rock legend Eddie Van Halen shared stories about his life and legacy.
On Tuesday, the guitar hero died of throat cancer at age 65.
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Van Halen played in Pittsburgh over a dozen times, and he was described as vulnerable and sensitive by local musician Hermie Granati and promoter Rich Engler. They both agreed the world lost one of the greatest guitarists.
“It was like Jimi Hendrix on steroids,” Engler said.
Engler said when he went through tough financial times, taking a gigantic loss during the Monsters of Rock at Three Rivers Stadium, Van Halen came through for him.
“Eddie stepped up with his band and was able to give me $75,000 back,” Engler said.
“There’s a dark cloud over myself and my brothers today because everybody knows him as the guitar player, we knew the human being,” said Granati.
Granati and his brothers were part of the Beaver Valley bank the Granati Brothers. They toured twice with Van Halen. They said he treated them like family.
“He was at my mom and dad’s house,” said Granati “He’s had my mother’s lasagna. He’s had my brother’s wine. He would see my mom and dad and give them a big kiss.”
Granati said he saw a softer side.
“He was very sweet, very genuine very down to earth. Vulnerable,” Granati said.
“What a loss it is for all of those kids he influenced to play guitar. You can’t describe how much of an icon he was,” he added.
Former WDVE DJ Sean McDowell remembers being a DJ for WYDD in New Kensington and listeners calling up and asking questions when he started playing Van Halen records in the late ’70s. He said fans had not heard anything like it.