Guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen dies, aged 65

The founder and lead guitarist of legendary rock band Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, has died aged 65. 

He had been battling throat cancer, and his health reportedly took a dive in the past few days.

He died in Santa Monica. His wife Janie and bandmates Wolfgang and Alex were there too - Wolfgang being his son and Alex his brother. 

"I can't believe I'm having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning," Wolfgang, who plays bass in the group, wrote on Twitter. 

"He was the best father I could ever ask for. 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." 

Eddie formed Van Halen with Alex in the early 1970s. His innovative guitar playing popularised the use of a technique called fret-tapping, and his loud, distorted tone was a huge influence on 1980s metal. 

Van Halen has sold more than 80 million albums in their career, one of the most successful hard rock bands in history. Wolfgang joined the group in 2006 when he was only 15. 

Like many rockers in the '70s and '80s, Eddie was a hard drinker and smoker. He believes the cancer may have been triggered by a metal guitar pick he used to hold in his mouth whilst using both his hands in fret-tapping.

TMZ reports doctors in recent days discovered his cancer had spread to other organs.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.