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Eddie Van Halen performs during a Van Halen concert at Madison Square Garden on March 1, 2012 in New York. - Provided courtesy of AP / Jason DeCrow

Eddie Van Halen's dad fueled alcohol addiction? Rocker gets candid with Esquire

Get more: Music
04/19/2012 by Corinne Heller

Eddie Van Halen, one of the most famous guitarists in the world and a former alcoholic, says his father encouraged him to drink early in his career, when he would "get so damn nervous" about performing in front of people.

The 57-year-old Van Halen rocker made his comments to Esquire magazine in a candid interview published in its May 2012 issue. His band has performed in packed arenas and is currently on tour with original singer David Lee Roth.

"The funny this is, about the whole alcoholism thing - it wasn't really the partying," Eddie Van Halen told Esquire. "It was like - I don't mean to blame my dad, but when I started playing in front of people, I'd get so damn nervous. I asked him, 'Dad, how do you do it?' That's when he handed me the cigarette and the drink. And I go, 'This is good! It works!' For so long, it really did work."

"And I certainly didn't do it to party," he added. "I would do blow and I would drink and then I would go to my room and write music."

His father, Dutch musician Jan van Halen, died at age 66 in 1986. He also battled alcoholism, as did his brother, Van Halen's drummer, Alex.

Van Halen is currently promoting the band's new album, "A Different Kind of Truth," its first major record with original singer David Lee Roth since the release of "1984," which features the hit singles "Jump," "Panama" and "Hot for Teacher."

"When they say, 'You can't say, I will never drink again,' I can honestly say I will never drink again," Eddie Van Halen told Esquire. "It's a whole new world. I'm 57 years old and I know I'm not going to live to be 114, so I can't say I'm halfway done. It's a sullen truth, but this is the first record I've made sober."

The 2004 greatest hits album "The Best of Both Worlds" was the last major record with new songs that Van Halen released.

Eddie Van Halen began drinking when he was about 12 and has undergone several stints in rehab. He also became addicted to an anti-anxiety drug while in treatment in 2007. He then had to be weaned off the prescription medication. He told Esquire he was put on antidepressants and spent most of 2008 watching television.

"You know when you see homeless people and they're literally not here, you know? I laid on the couch for a year. 'Just watching Law & Order,'" he said. "The doctors helped me out with this amino-acid treatment stuff, or whatever it was."

The rocker has also undergone other health battles - he had hip replacement surgery in 1999 and was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2000. Doctors removed parts of his tongue and he declared himself cancer-free in 2002. He revealed to Esquire that the disease returned in 2011, twice - in the spring and the fall. Doctors removed another piece of his tonque. He undergoes routine checkups several times a year.

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