Pete Townshend Honors Eddie Van Halen: ‘I Was Hoping He Might Be President One Day’

There has been an outpouring of love for Eddie Van Halen ever since the news arrived Tuesday that the guitarist had died from cancer at 65. Many musicians have taken to the internet to pay tribute, from Flea to John Mayer — and now Pete Townshend.

“I was once asked by Michael Jackson to play electric guitar on the Thriller album,” Townshend tells Rolling Stone. “I said I couldn’t do it but recommended Eddie who called and we chatted. He was utterly charming, happy about the connection, but told me how much he was enjoying playing keyboards. His smile was just classic. A man in his rightful place, so happy to be doing what he did.”

“It’s completely tragic that we have lost him,” he adds. “He was not just an innovative and stylish player with great taste, he was also a laidback virtuoso showman who just blew us all away every time. Every shredder today has lost their Master Teacher and Guide.”

“As he got older he became more generous and amusing and self-effacing about his enormous gifts. He shared so many tricks through guitar workshops, online and on TV shows. Immense talent. The Great American Guitar Player. I was hoping he might be President one day,” Townshend says.

The news of Van Halen’s death was announced by his son, Wolfgang Van Halen. “He was the best father I could ever ask for,” he tweeted. “Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.”