Alexander Arthur van Halen is a Dutch-born American musician who is one of the founding members and drummer of the hard rock band Van Halen. Besides him, the band is currently comprised of his brother Eddie, nephew Wolfgang, and David Lee Roth. An Amsterdam native, Alex immigrated to the United States with his family when he was about nine years old. The son of an accomplished jazz saxophonist and clarinet player, his interest in music developed early, and he and his brother received classical piano training as children. While he initially harboured aspirations of becoming a guitarist, he later switched to be a drummer. Van Halen was formed in 1974 with Alex, Eddie, Roth, and Michael Anthony. At the height of their career, they were one of the most popular and successful rock acts in the world. They have sold over 80 million albums worldwide and won numerous accolades, including the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ in 1992.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on May 8, 1953, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Alex is the son of late Jan van Halen and late Eugenia van Beers. His father was a renowned jazz saxophonist and clarinet player. His mother had moved to the Netherlands from Rangkasbitung, Indonesia.
He lived in Nijmegen in the east of the Netherlands in the early years of his life before moving to Pasadena, California in 1962. Both Alex and his younger brother, Eddie, later obtained US citizenships.
Both brothers were taught classical piano. In the early days of his music career, Alex wanted to be a guitarist, and Eddie played the drums. That did not stop Alex from practising on his brother’s drum kit.
The brothers later found out that Alex had become a better drummer than Eddie, who decided to let his brother be the drummer and began learning the electric guitar.
Alex was a student at Pasadena High School in California. After obtaining his high-school degree, he enrolled at Pasadena City College, studying music theory, scoring, composition, and arranging.
During his time at Pasadena City College, Alex became acquainted with Anthony and Roth. He did not complete his education, eventually dropping out of college.
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Alex van Halen and Eddie were part of several groups before Van Halen was formed, including The Broken Combs, The Space Brothers, The Trojan Rubber Company, and Mammoth.
Their group Mammoth was formed in 1972 with Alex on the drums, Eddie on lead vocals, and Mark Stone on the bass. The band got a PA system on rent from Roth for their performances and eventually asked him to serve as their lead vocalist as Eddie did not enjoy doing it.
In 1974, the group changed their name from Mammoth to Van Halen as the former was already being used by another band. Later that year, Stone left the group, and Anthony joined. According to Roth, he named the group after Alex, who was serving as their manager besides playing the drums.
They released their self-titled first album in 1978 through Warner Bros. record label. Since then, they have put out 11 more studio albums to date, ‘Van Halen II’ (1979), ‘Women and Children First’ (1980), ‘Fair Warning’ (1981), ‘Diver Down’ (1982), ‘1984’ (1984), ‘5150’ (1986), ‘OU812’ (1988), ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1991), ‘Balance’ (1995), ‘Van Halen III’ (1998), and ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ (2012).
They have also released two live albums, two compilation albums, three video albums and 56 singles.
While the phrase “Brown sound” is normally associated with Eddie’s guitar, it was Alex who originally came up with it while referring to the sound of his snare drum. His only recording outside of Van Halen is the instrumental ‘Respect the Wind’, which he and Eddie made for the film ‘Twister’ (1996).
Alex has cited the likes of Billy Cobham, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Buddy Rich as the drummers who influenced him.
Van Halen’s self-titled first album is widely regarded as one of the strongest debuts in the history of rock music. Comprised of classic tracks like ‘Runnin' With the Devil’, ‘Eruption’, ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love’, ‘I'm the One’, ‘Jamie's Cryin’, and ‘Atomic Punk’, the album not only announced their arrival in the industry, it also secured their position in it. ‘Van Halen’ has been certified 4xPlatinum by Music Canada and Diamond by the RIAA.
Family & Personal Life
Alex van Halen has been married three times in his life. His first wife is Valeri Kendall, whom he married on June 11, 1983. Their divorce was finalised in 1984. His marriage to his second wife, Kelly, lasted about 12 years, from 1984 to 1996. The union produced a son, Aric, who was born on October 6, 1989.
Since 2000, he has been married to Stine Schyberg. They have two children, including a son named Malcolm.
Following the death of his father in December 1986, Alex quit drinking and has been sober since. He is an ordained minister, and he officiated Eddie’s wedding to actress Janie Liszewski in 2009.