The "Bad Guy" singer, who is only 17, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel last month and was quizzed about the year 1984 when Kimmel was age 17. After naming Madonna, who Eilish knows, Kimmel asked, "Can you name a Van Halen?"
"Who?" she replied.
The moment went viral days later with some music fans flabbergasted Eilish, who was born in 2001, didn't know the rock band. The Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex, formed the group eventually known as Van Halen with bassist Michael Anthony and singer David Lee Roth in 1972. Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 2007, when Eilish was 5 years old. Eddie Van Halen's son Wolf, who became the bassist for the band, told people to give her a break.
"Music is supposed to bring us together, not divide us," he tweeted Monday. "Listen to what you want and don’t shame others for not knowing what you like."
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.— Wolf Van Halen (@WolfVanHalen) December 2, 2019
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.
Rob Sheridan, the former art director for Nine Inch Nails, also weighed in.
Yup. And my point is less about "knowing who Van Halen is" and more about not CARING who Van Halen is. I probably technically knew who Perry Como was at age 17 thanks to my Grandma, but it was just irrelevant old people stuff. Exciting to see hair metal now in that category.— Rob Sheridan (@rob_sheridan) December 2, 2019
Imagine being a teen in the 90s and people being shocked that you didn't know or care about Perry Como. Because THAT'S HOW OLD VAN HALEN IS NOW.— Rob Sheridan (@rob_sheridan) December 2, 2019
Former Deadspin columnist Drew Magary quipped, "If you're surprised Billie Eilish has never heard of Van Halen, well then you might be a LOT more surprised by the s*** Eddie Van Halen himself is oblivious to." The tweet linked to a Billboard article where Eddie Van Halen said he wasn't familiar with the work of Radiohead, Metallica or Guns N' Roses because he doesn't listen to music.
Many others came to Eilish's defense, too.
I'm not. I'm 50, so I grew up with VH.— Deep Time (@rstackjr) December 2, 2019
When I was 17 in 1985 (and listening to artists like Van Halen & Rush) I did not know artists like Billie Holiday, The Ink Spots, or the Andrews Sisters.
Forty years is a HUGE gap in music. Give her a break.
I say this as a superfan: Van Halen has given Billie Eilish no reason to know who they are. They've done very little during her lifetime.— Dan Amrich (@DanAmrich) December 2, 2019
Don't complain about other people's musical experience being different. Instead, share -- give people a reason to love what you love. 🎧
Van Halen was like 30/40 years ago and Billie Eilish is what, 15? That's like expecting a 90s kid to know about a 50s band that isn't the beatles— Mat Zo (@Mat_Zo) December 2, 2019
Billie Eilish is one day older than The Fellowship of the Ring so sure let’s pretend to be outraged that she doesn’t know who Van Halen is.— Brian Duffield of Dreams (@BrianDuffield) December 2, 2019
If you're surprised Billie Eilish has never heard of Van Halen, I would love to ask you what music you were listening to as teenager from 40 years ago.— Eric Alper 🎧 (@ThatEricAlper) December 2, 2019
That's listening to music from the 1930s when you grew up in the '70s, and the 1940s if you grew up in the '80s.
Eilish is up for six Grammys in January and is the youngest artist to earn nominations in all four major categories – Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist.
[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Dec. 2, 2019 at 3:22 p.m. ET and has been updated to note the original bassist in Van Halen was Michael Anthony not Mark Stone.]
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