April 8, 2020 – 9:36 am


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By Lee Ballinger.

This morning I watched a 2015 Eddie Van Halen interview on YouTube. He talked a lot about various guitar geek stuff. He also shared some of his family history. His father was Dutch, a native of Holland. Dad was a professional musician and traveled the world. While in Indonesia, then a Dutch colony, he met Eddie’s mother. They moved together back to the Netherlands where, as an Indonesian, Eddie’s mom was legally a second class citizen.

Eventually they moved to America, to Pasadena, California. Eddie’s dad had to work as a janitor, his mom as a maid. At school Eddie and his brother Alex spoke no English and were often beaten up by white bullies. Sound familiar?

Yes, eventually Eddie Van Halen and his drummer brother Alex made it big in music and got a piece of the American dream (presumably including citizenship). It was a combination of talent, luck, and being able to connect with an audience despite, and maybe a bit because of, the prejudices of the music industry.

Eventually they moved to America, to Pasadena, California. Eddie’s dad had to work as a janitor, his mom as a maid. At school Eddie and his brother Alex spoke no English and were often beaten up by white bullies. Sound familiar?

Why do we tolerate living in a society where only a small percentage of people are able to fully utilize their capacities, follow their passions, and not have to worry about things like rent, health care, or student debt? We live in the richest country on earth. There is no good reason why we can’t all thrive, free of the hate and poverty that is built into our system.

Oh, we’re the lost generation
I hold fate from a string
Lookin’ for a direction
Reachin’ out for anything
So, dream another dream
This dream is over

- “Dream is Over,” Van Halen

Note: Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential, author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger here. The above article was posted at CounterPunch.

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Alex was born in Amsterdam on May 5, 1953 and Eddie in Amsterdam on January 26, 1955 to professional clarinettist and saxophonist Jan van Halen (1920-1986) and his wife Eugenie van Beers (1915-2005). Father Jan, born in Amsterdam, emigrated to the Dutch East Indies after World War II where he met his wife Eugenie. Her cradle stood in a little village called Rangkasbetoeng (Rangkasbitung nowadays) in the far western part of Java. This was the administrative centre of the district Lebak in the residency Bantam. It is the same region where Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) witnessed the abuse of the Javanese peasants in the late 1850s, which provoked him to publish his novel Max Havelaar (1860).

Eugenie van Beers’ mother, also named Eugenie, bore the surname Mafficioli del Castelletto. Her father was of Italian descent, her mother was an Indonesian woman called Roebinem. Eugenie’s father was Frans van Beers. His father’s name is unknown to us. His mother was an unknown Indonesian woman. Eugenie van Beers’ grandfather on mother’s side had an unkown Indonesian mother as well. So you can say that mother Eugenie was of mixed European and Asiatic descent, with at least five out of eight Indonesian great-grandparents.

Jan and Eugenie married in August 1950 and re-emigrated on March 4, 1953 on board of the ship “Sibajak” to Holland, where they settled in Amsterdam. Shortly after the birth of Eddie the family moved to Nijmegen, where they lived at 59 Rozemarijnstraat. On February 22, 1962 the Van Halen’s moved again, this time by boat across the Atlantic to New York. After which they proceeded on a continent-crossing journey by train to finally settle in California, where they lived in Pasadena at 1881 Las Lunas Street for two decades. It was here that the two Dutch born Indo-Americans started to write music history and the swirling Van Halen story began.

Read the full story here.

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  2. This is interesting. It’s the first reference I’ve ***ever*** seen to the Indonesian ethnic heritage of Eddie and Alex Van Halen. It just seems kind of weird that they’ve been in the public eye for more than 40 years and this particular biographical detail has never come to my attention. I read long ago that they were Dutch, and figured that was that. It’s true that just because they also have Indonesian heritage doesn’t mean there’s anything particularly Indonesian about them, but still, knowing they had to fight their way through all the problems that mixed-race children typically encounter somehow makes their success all the more meaningful.

    By Homer Pigeon on Apr 9, 2020

  3. Yes, I agree, it has been a non-mention for all these years. I am pleased to hear about this. Wow, Eddie and Alex had Indonesian blood…and became musical heroes. Fantastic. Like Farouk!
    Indonesians also make the best soy product - Tempeh.
    Now we just have to wait for the other sexist, anti-gay, racist posters to show up.

    By sazista on Apr 12, 2020

  4. thanks for the censorship of my last message big o, you shall be judged also

    By Human Being on Apr 12, 2020

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