Tony Iommi said he was “amazed” at how Eddie Van Halen continued to play guitar so well despite struggling with arthritis in his later years.

The Black Sabbath guitarist described the Van Halen instrumentalist as a “fabulously caring” person and recalled how they’d quickly become close on tour in 1978.

“I’ve got two really great friends in the music business – Brian May is one and Eddie Van Halen was the other,” Iommi told Guitar World in a recent interview. “Ed was just fantastic, and his death is a terrible loss. … He was a fabulously caring human being. Whenever I was in L.A., I’d call him and we’d go out for dinner with our wives, and it was lovely.”

Iommi explained that he "met Eddie in ’78 when Van Halen toured with Sabbath. It was the band’s first world tour and we were on the road together for several months. We had such a great relationship. I used to see Eddie most nights after the show, either in my room or his room or in the bar or whatever. We used to just chat all bloody night, and he’s been a really great friend to me ever since. … And sometimes he’d bring his guitar around to my room and we’d play for a bit.”

He said he's “always respected” his friend’s talent and admitted that "Van Halen were a bloody hard act to follow, but we worked as a team. We were both there to entertain and to enjoy ourselves.”

Van Halen had hand surgery in 2009, soon before Iommi had a similar procedure. “Eddie recommended that I go to this guy he was seeing in Germany,” he recalled. “I had this form of stem cell treatment like Eddie had. And yeah, it was really good. ... It’s not well known that Eddie struggled with his arthritis – I’m amazed how well he played, really. … He created his own guitar world – and what a world it was!”

 

Eddie Van Halen Year by Year: 1977-2017 Photos