There’s no questioning Eddie Van Halen ruled LA’s Sunset Strip, from the time the band that bears his name broke on the scene in the late ‘70s through his untimely death last year. Now, the late guitarist’s image and memory live on with a stunning mural which adorns Guitar Center’s flagship Hollywood store, unveiled yesterday on what would have been his 66th birthday.
Renowned muralist Robert Vargas partnered with Guitar Center to create the striking portrait of the guitar great playing his iconic ‘Frankenstrat’ guitar. Vargas’ image of Van Halen ripping out a solo greets everyone who enters the store’s rear entrance and spans a whopping 17 feet high and 105 feet long,
“It’s him at the absolute height of his powers,” Vargas says in the video below. “I imagine him playing “I’m The One” because he’s right in the middle of wailing, just bending those strings.”
Vargas donated his time designing the mural, which he created by free hand. “Eddie was one of my creative heroes. 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. 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.”
Vargas had met Van Halen several years ago and felt an immediate artistic bond with him. “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. Be true to your art, and your art will be true to you.”
Van Halen’s influence on music and guitar playing is undeniable, with untold thousands of budding young guitar heroes flocking to the Sunset Strip in the ‘80s, attempting to capture their own lightning in a bottle mojo.
“Eddie Van Halen was a truly monumental force in rock music,” Jean-Claude Escudie, Guitar Center Category Manager said. “He made lead guitar playing popular when it might have been slipping away into punk and new wave minimalist territory, and then basically the entire 80s hard rock scene followed in his wake. Guitar Center saw this first-hand, as generations of lead guitarists have flocked to our stores to try to capture something of what inspires them about Eddie’s sound. Besides that, sometimes people forget that he was an immigrant and multi-racial, so in so many ways his story is the story of the American experience.”
The new mural is not the only Van Halen tribute Guitar Center has set up throughout their Hollywood store. The guitar great’s handprints are a centerpiece of their iconic RockWalk located outside the Hollywood store, and several of his personal instruments and other memorabilia are displayed behind glass.