The big music argument online today is whether Billie Eilish should be ashamed for not knowing who Van Halen is. A couple weeks ago Eilish — the transformative 17-year-old pop star with a blockbuster album, a #1 single, and six Grammy nominations to her name — appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! At one point Kimmel quizzed her on her knowledge of ’80s music superstars; she is familiar with Madonna, but when Kimmel asked, “Can you name a Van Halen?” her response was: “Who?”
Billie Eilish didn't know who Van Halen was, I'm sobbing. pic.twitter.com/tX6xrs7cIE
— Mack (@_Kenziepuff) November 29, 2019
Someone tweeted this excerpt from the interview on Thanksgiving, and now that people are back from their holiday break it began to pick up traction today. Some are clowning Eilish, a famous and influential musician, for not being aware of one of history’s most famous and influential bands. For instance, some dolt in my mentions had the gall to argue, “Musicians should know music history. Ignorance ain’t bliss,” as if a 17-year-old for whom Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and Tyler, The Creator qualify as classic rock could be expected to flex an encyclopedic knowledge of the 20th century canon before graduating high school.
And then there are the wise sages like myself, who are quick to point out that Eilish wasn’t even born the last time Van Halen had a real hit (1995’s Sammy Hagar-led pop crossover “Can’t Stop Loving You”), and that Van Halen’s cultural imprint has waned significantly in recent years. They haven’t endured as a context-free touchstone for today’s kids the way, say, Nirvana and the Rolling Stones have. If they want to be on teenagers’ radar they badly need that stadium tour David Lee Roth was blabbing about this time last year or, more likely, a false flag operation forcing “Jump” to become a viral meme “organically.”
Now a member of Van Halen has weighed in, albeit a member who joined long after the group’s heyday. That’d be Wolfgang Van Halen, son of guitar god Eddie Van Halen, who somewhat contentiously replaced founding bassist Michael Anthony in 2006, when Wolfgang was just 15. He knows a thing or two about the scrutiny of the olds, and he’s here to tell you to calm the fuck down about this stupid shit. “If you haven’t heard of @billieeilish, go check her out. She’s cool. If you haven’t heard of @VanHalen, go check them out. They’re cool too,” Wolfgang wrote on Twitter this afternoon. He continued, “Music is supposed to bring us together, not divide us. Listen to what you want and don’t shame others for not knowing what you like.”
Music is supposed to bring us together, not divide us. Listen to what you want and don’t shame others for not knowing what you like.
— Wolf Van Halen (@WolfVanHalen) December 2, 2019
There it is: The only reasonable take. Well, also this one:
i don't care that Billie Eilish doesn't know who Van Halen is but a Van Halen cover of "Bad Guy" would kick ass and you know it
— Al Shipley (@alshipley) December 2, 2019
Now if Wolf would kindly step aside and convince his father and uncle to get the classic lineup back on the road…