Saturday, September 29, 2012

Eddie Van Mozart

Music is a fairly common theme on this blog. It was huge to my mother and she passed that down to her kids. Old musicals, piano lessons, guitar lessons, stereo always on while she dusted. It is so huge to me now that no matter how loud it is in whatever venue I'm at or how wonderful the conversation is that I'm involved in, I always hear the music over anything else.

Ron and I have a zillion CDs, tapes and albums. We know all of the songs and most of the words. Music speaks to us in a way it does to countless others but not everyone is as connected to the meaning of music as we are.

This week, I brought up Van Halen to Ron and we reminisced about the band. Ron dug up the Greatest Hits CD for me and I've been listening to it all week in the car.

The first half of the CD is the Diamond Dave days and the second half is mostly Sammy. There's a constant dialogue among Van Halen fans about what version of the band was better. It seems the vast majority likes the cheeky days with David Lee Roth.

Dave was and is a bit of a musical and social clown. He wore the front man costume with great ease. He is very very bright and articulate during interviews but is a complete nut on stage and in the popular videos from the 1984 album that kept them in heavy rotation on MTV (when MTV actually played videos.)

Personally, I like both versions of Van Halen equally. The band changed when Dave left to start a solo career (which didn't last long) and Sammy Hagar came on board. I liked Hagar and thought he'd be a different but great addition to the band.

While listening to the band's greatest hits it became clear just how much better musically the band became when Sammy came on board. Lyrically the songs ditched the girl-chasing themes and started talking more about true love and other important things in life.

Musically Eddie's keyboard work became almost as important as his guitar god status. The melodies were more complex, the harmonies were richer, the mixing became more robust. 

I've always thought the song Right Now was the best song Van Halen ever wrote and produced. In fact, upon listening to it a few times this week, I would like to say it is one of the best songs ever written.

The video won all major awards at the MTV video awards that year. Watch it once because it's great stuff. Then "watch" it again with your eyes close. You cannot adequately hear the musical creation while watching the video.

I found it interesting that Eddie Van Halen and then-wife Valerie Bertinelli named their son Wolfgang. Eddie is a huge Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart fan (as am I) and I often think that Mozart would have been blaring Right Now in 1991 - the year that Wolfgang Van Halen was born, Right Now was released, and the music world marked the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death.

The song's opening is a simple yet fast-moving piano solo that winds its way through the song at different points. My favorite work by Mozart is his piano concertos. They are often very light-hearted pieces with great "hooks" and playful melodies.

There are those who will disagree with me, but I believe that some of my generation's music is on the same level as Mozart's concertos. 

Eddie, in his heydey, was the Mozart of the rock world. I wonder while I'm listening to Van Halen's songs again if 200 years from now another Amadeus will break onto the music scene and name his son Eddie. 

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