Wolfgang Van Halen Steps Into the Spotlight with ‘Distance’

The long-awaited first taste of solo music from Wolfgang Van Halen was released this week, and it was a heartbreaker. Dedicated to his late father Eddie Van Halen, the song “Distance,” best described as pop rock with an edge that sees the 29-year-old singing and playing every instrument, is an emotional whirlwind reflective of the deep connection the two shared.

“As my pop continued to struggle with various health issues, I was imagining what my life would be like without him and how terribly I’d miss him,” Wolfgang said in a statement. “While the song is incredibly personal, I think anyone can relate to the idea of having a profound loss in their life. I never intended ‘Distance’ to be the very first piece of music people would hear from me, but I also thought my father would be here to celebrate its release. This is for him. I love and miss you, Pop.”

The accompanying video is made up of private home movies taken over the years, from the day Wolfgang was brought home from the hospital by his mom and dad – the former being actress Valerie Bertinelli – up until the most recent tours with Van Halen, where Wolf took over on bass beginning in 2006. It ends with a recorded phone message from Eddie telling his son how proud he is and how much he loves him.

“Distance” was released under the name “Mammoth WVH,” a nod to the early days of Van Halen when the band was known as Mammoth. It resonated with music fans – to say the least – as the song quickly hit number one on the Apple Music charts the day it came out, leading Wolfgang to post on social media how thrilled he was with the feat.

“[The song went to] #1 on iTunes,” he wrote. “Not just rock, but overall. I’m speechless. The response to ‘Distance’ has been mind-blowing and I’m so thankful for each and every one of you. Know that the weight of this moment is not lost on me. Thank you. Wish you were here for this, Pop.”

Wolfgang also made the media rounds, from The Howard Stern Show on SiriusXM to the Today Show on NBC to various radio stations in markets around the country. As it was the first time he’s ever officially sat down and been interviewed, there were a lot of questions about Van Halen which he was happy to talk about.

Among the nuggets he divulged, there was one bombshell that the group were planning what Wolfgang and Eddie jokingly referred to as “the kitchen sink tour,” which would feature all three of their vocalists – David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone – as well as bassist Michael Anthony, heading out together on a 2019 arena tour. Sadly, Eddie’s health problems – including a brain tumor and stage four lung cancer – prevented it from happening. He died last month at the age of 65.

While speaking with Stern, Wolfgang premiered another song from his forthcoming album, “You’re to Blame,” which he said was more indicative of the overall sound of the LP, scheduled to come out sometime in the spring of 2021. The track is definitely much heavier and has a lot of hard rock enthusiasts looking forward to the finished product. The current focus remains on “Distance” though, with all proceeds are going to The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which Eddie Van Halen was very much involved. The musical charity provides crucial support to school districts nationwide, providing instruments to underfunded music programs and giving economically disadvantaged youth access to the benefits of music education.

This article originally appeared in Friday’s print edition of The Daily Times in my weekly Rock Music Menu column under the title “Wolfgang Van Halen Steps Into the Spotlight”.

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