When Late Night With David Letterman was in Los Angeles in 1985, bandleader Paul Schaffer reached out to legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen to see if he would sit in with the band. Schaeffer was evidently successful because on May 16, 1985, Van Halen was there with his famous red-striped guitar doing what he did best, playing the intro to the show, as well as before and after the commercial breaks. Host David Letterman was so impressed with Van Halen’s performance that he invited him to stay on.
Ladies and gentlemen, everybody knows who he is. All I can say is when we came out to LA, there was one cat that we wanted to talk into sitting in with us and uh we’re thrilled that he did. He’s an innovator and he’s just a nutty kind of a guy. …all right ladies and gentlemen, if you tune this program on Monday…Eddie will you be with us Monday? Come on be here Monday.
While Van Halen didn’t return Monday, he did return the next month with then-wife Valerie Bertinelli and then again in 1995.
Van Halen returned to Letterman again in 1995 to perform a rare instrumental version of “Panama”.
Sadly, the world lost Eddie Van Halen and his uniquely virtuosic talent on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, due to a long battle with cancer. He was just 65 years old. Friends, family, and fans have all posted their thoughts and memories of this musical genius who was taken far too soon.
— Wolf Van Halen (@WolfVanHalen) October 6, 2020
— Valerie Bertinelli (@Wolfiesmom) October 6, 2020
What a Long Great Trip It’s Been.. pic.twitter.com/M5pmkVi7hW
— David Lee Roth (@DavidLeeRoth) October 7, 2020
Heartbroken and speechless. My love to the family. pic.twitter.com/MQMueMF2XO
— Sammy Hagar (@sammyhagar) October 6, 2020
Of all the guitarists I got to play with, he was my favorite. RIP Eddie Van Halen
— Paul Shaffer (@paulshaffer) October 6, 2020
We are enormously saddened to hear about the untimely passing of Eddie Van Halen. We considered him an inspiration, an idol, and after spending a summer together on the road in '88, a friend. Sending love to Alex, @wolfvanhalen & everyone in the greater VH family.
— Metallica (@Metallica) October 6, 2020
Just when I thought 2020 couldn't get any worse, I hear Eddie Van Halen has passed. So shocking- One of the nicest, down to Earth men I have ever met and toured with. A true gent and true genius. RIP. So sad.Thoughts go out to his brother Alex, and his family. pic.twitter.com/fwIw040YMX
— Geezer Butler (@geezerbutler) October 6, 2020