Grammys Producer Defends Eddie Van Halen Tribute

Bruce Henne | 03-20-2021

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Van Halen video still of the Grammy segment

(hennemusic) Grammy Awards producer Ben Winston is defending the March 4 event's tribute to Eddie Van Halen following backlash from fans and public comments by the late rocker's son Wolfgang Van Halen.

The guitar icon - who passed away last October at the age of 65 - was referenced briefly in the show's "In Memoriam" segment highlighting music industry figures who have died in the past year.

While some fans shared their disappointment online at the brevity of the spotlight on the innovative musician, Wolfgang confirmed that he turned down an invitation to perform Eddie's legendary instrumental, "Eruption", on the broadcast and was disappointed that his father hadn't been featured more prominently.

"It was my understanding that there would be an 'In Memoriam' section where bits of songs were performed for legendary artists that had passed," shared Wolfgang on social media. "I didn't realize that they would only show Pop for 15 seconds in the middle of 4 full performances for others we had lost. What hurt the most was that he wasn't even mentioned when they talked about artists we lost in the beginning of the show. I know rock isn't the most popular genre right now, (and the academy does seem a bit out of touch) but I think it's impossible to ignore the legacy my father left on the instrument, the world of rock, and music in general. There will never be another innovator like him."

"We had the idea for it for a long time," Winston tells Variety, "because I thought it was great that we could go from Little Richard to Kenny Rogers to John Prine, and it could be brilliant musicians playing for each other, and I think it really resonated with people. The regret I have is that I think 970 names were submitted for "In Memoriam" this year, and you can only put... usually it's 35 to 45 and this year we did 60. I wish we could have done more.

"As for Eddie, we had a call with Wolfgang's rep before the show, and I asked if he'd be willing to come on and play. He said he didn't really want to do that, and I offered up eight or nine guitarists who maybe could. But instead, he felt like we should play a video of Eddie himself, because nobody could play like him, so that's what we did. I would have loved for it to be longer than it was, but Eddie was the only person in the whole 'In Memoriam' to play their own music, with no other faces being seen. I felt that was an appropriate tribute to him, but if Wolfgang didn't, I'm sorry about that, of course - it's such a horrific thing to lose a parent. We did the best that we felt we could."

Watch the "Eruption/You Really Got Me" video here.

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