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Video: US Army soldier goes viral with Van Halen guitar tribute

U.S. Army soldier Austin West playing a tribute cover for the late Eddie Van Halen. (Austin West/Facebook)
October 12, 2020

Last week, a U.S. soldier went viral after honoring late legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen with a tribute cover of one of his songs.

In a live video shared to Army Staff Sgt. Austin West’s Facebook page, the soldier rips out some of Van Halen’s classics, including “Eruption.” The video’s caption reads, “RIP to a legend and inspiration Mr. Edward Van Halen! Here is my tribute to you and may you Rest In Peace!”

“When you actually learn Eruption on guitar and you’re fifteen years old or thirteen and it sounds completely horrible, you’re still like a rock god,” West said in an interview with 7 News NY. “It’s just that power.”

Eddie Van Halen was known as a guitar innovator, and after leading the band Van Halen for 50 years, he ultimately landed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. After Van Halen lost his battle with throat cancer at the age of 65 on October 6, West was crushed and wanted to show his appreciation for the rock legend.

“I wanted to show my respect but mainly my emotions for what had happened,” West reportedly told Military Times.

The 3-minute video has since skyrocketed to more than 1 million views and has racked up thousands of comments. Many of the comments offered words of encouragement regarding his guitar playing, acknowledgment of West’s service in the Army, and rock ‘n roll salute emojis.

One user who commented on West’s video said, “Thank you for your service. Eddie lives on through you and the thousands of guitar players he inspired.”

West further expressed his admiration for the late rock star, saying that Van Halen would make entire songs with only himself and a guitar.

“It felt great but not for myself but for Eddie!” West said, adding that the large number of views “showed how much love people had for him and what he’s done for music.”

The 26-year-old Staff Sgt. has been playing since he was just 13-years-old. He toured with the U.S. Army Soldier Show in 2015, stopping at 74 bases along the way. After his service as an Army recruiter is complete, West plans on joining the Army music group “As You Were” for a three-year tour, WWNY reported.

“We have careers in which you can fulfill your dreams but always creates peace within our communities!” West said. “Music is the universal language.”

If Van Halen was still alive today, West said he would tell him that he has “inspired so many like myself and to ask if he’d like to rip up some tunes together!”