As the world continues to mourn the loss of Eddie Van Halen, his friend and fellow rocker Gene Simmons is speaking out about the guitar legend.
Van Halen died Tuesday at 65, following a battle with cancer.
“Extra’s” Billy Bush spoke with Simmons, who produced Van Halen’s first demo.
Billy asked, “When you think of the pantheon of the greatest guitar gods that we've known in rock and roll, where does Eddie sit?”
The KISS bassist replied, “Well, clearly you'd have a left and right hand side of God… one side would be [Jimi] Hendrix and the other side would certainly be Eddie, without a doubt.”
Gene shared that he had seen Eddie after his cancer diagnosis and said the guitarist was open about it.
“I ran into Eddie after he contracted cancer… and he walked over, ‘Hey, how you doing?'… and I didn't know how to bring up the disease… ‘Are you feeling okay?’ and he just went right into it, ‘Hey, man, yeah, I’ve got cancer.’”
“I was taken aback,” Simmons went on. “I didn't know what to say, and I was going to ask him how he was feeling and before I could do that he said, ‘Hey, man, check this out,’ and he… opened his mouth and showed me… the effects of cancer on the upper palate. I was speechless… and before anything could happen, he — so help me God — just shrugged and went, ‘Hey, what're you going to do?’ He was just matter-of-fact, enjoyed life.”
Gene added, “He just had this smile on his face when he was doing concerts, videos, just a gentle soul.”
Mourning the loss, he said, “Every once in a while, I get into this sad place with Eddie and all I keep thinking about is that amazing smile… what an amazing man.”