Van Halen Family Faced 'Horrifying Racist Environment' for Being Indonesian Says David Lee Roth
"It was actually the white people that were the bullies," Eddie said in a 2017 interview about being an immigrant in America
It wasn't all love for the Van Halens before their rise to fame.
Lee Roth explained that the two were often referred to as "half-breeds" in the Netherlands. Alex and Eddie's mother Eugenia was born in Indonesia and their father Jan in the Netherlands.
"It was a big deal. Those homeboys grew up in a horrifying racist environment to where they actually had to leave the country," Roth, 66, said in the podcast, NBC News reported.
"They came to America and did not speak English as a first language in the early '60s. Wow," he said then. "So that kind of sparking, that kind of stuff, that runs deep."
Eddie previously spoke about how his mother was treated as a "second-class citizen" in 2017. (In Pasadena, where the band was established, Eugenia worked as a maid and Jan was a janitor. They shared a home with two other families.)
"We already went through that in Holland, you know, first day, first grade. Now, you're in a whole other country where you can't speak the language, and you know absolutely nothing about anything and it was beyond frightening," he said. "I don't even know how to explain but I think it made us stronger because you had to be."
In the interview, Van Halen also said that some of his first friends were Black students since he was considered a "minority."
"It was actually the white people that were the bullies," he said. "They would tear up my homework and papers, make me eat playground sand, all those things, and the Black kids stuck up for me."
Eddie and Alex, 67, co-founded Van Halen in 1972 in Pasadena, California. Since then, it has released 12 studio albums, including their latest A Different Kind of Truth in 2012.
The band's self-titled 1978 album featured iconic tracks such as "Runnin' with the Devil," "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and "You Really Got Me." Their massive hit album 1984 featured tracks such as "Jump," "Hot for Teacher" and "Panama." Both LPs are certified diamond in the U.S.
Eddie Van Halen died last Tuesday after a years-long battle with cancer at age 65. His son Wolf shared the news of his death on social media, writing that "my heart is broken and I don't think I'll ever recover from this loss."