Rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen turns 60

Eddie Van Halen, pictured in September 2013. Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

TORONTO — Monday marks the 60th birthday of rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, regarded as one of the greatest living rock guitarists.

He’s far from the oldest guitar god — Keith Richards and Jimmy Page are 71 and Eric Clapton is 69 — but he has survived cancer, bone death and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

To celebrate van Halen’s six decades of life, here are 12 facts about his life (and some of his most memorable riffs):

— His full name is Edward Lodewijk van Halen. Lodewijk is the Dutch form of Ludwig, the first name of composer Beethoven. Van Halen gave his son the same first name as Mozart: Wolfgang.

— He was born in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

— In 2012, readers of Guitar World voted him No. 1 on a list “The Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” beating Brian May of Queen and Alex Lifeson of Rush.

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BELOW: Watch the video for Van Halen’s “Jump”

— When he was a youth, Van Halen learned to play classical piano and then the drums before focusing on guitar.

— Eddie Van Halen married actress Valerie Bertinelli in 1981. They separated in 2001 and she filed for divorce in 2005. The two remain on good terms. Bertinelli attended Van Halen’s wedding to Janie Liszewski in 2009 and Van Halen attended Bertinelli’s 2011 wedding to Tom Vitale.

BELOW: Watch the video for Van Halen’s “Panama”

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— He co-wrote and performed “Respect the Wind” (with brother Alex) for the 1996 movie Twister. It earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental.

— The band Van Halen was originally named Genesis. The name was changed to Mammoth, then Van Halen. Van Halen’s self-titled debut album was released in 1978.

— Eddie Van Halen was diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a condition involving bone death — in 1995 and had hip replacement surgery in 1999. In 2000, he began treatment for tongue cancer (doctors reportedly removed about a third of his tongue). In 2012, Van Halen had emergency surgery due to diverticulitis, a digestive disease.

BELOW: Watch Eddie van Halen’s guitar solo from “Eruption”

— He was a caller named Hank in a 1993 episode of Frasier.

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— He checked into a rehab program in 2007 for alcohol addiction. His father, musician Jan van Halen, reportedly died of alcoholism-related illness.

— The guitar solo in Michael Jackson’s hit “Beat It” was improvised by Van Halen.

BELOW: Watch the video for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” featuring Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo.

— In 1992, the band Van Halen won a Grammy (Best Hard Rock Performance) and an American Music Award (Favourite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album). It won four MTV Video Music Awards (one for “Jump” and three for “Right Now”).

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