By Sandra Rose  | 

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Legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen -- known for his memorable guitar solo on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" -- has died.

The legendary guitarist and co-founder of Van Halen passed away on Tuesday after a long battle with stage 4 throat cancer.

Sources directly connected to the rock star tell TMZ, Van Halen died at St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica Tuesday. His wife, Janie was by his side, along with his son Wolfgang Van Halen and brother Alex Van Halen.

Eddie died soon after doctors discovered his throat cancer had metastasized to his brain as well as other organs.

Eddie had been battling cancer for well over a decade. Though he was a heavy smoker for years, Eddie believed he developed the throat cancer from his habit of holding a metal guitar pick in his mouth 20 years ago, TMZ reported.

Eddie formed the classic rock group in Pasadena in 1972 with his brother, Alex, on drums, Michael Anthony on bass and lead singer David Lee Roth. Eddie served as the main songwriter on their self-titled debut album in 1978, which launched the group into rock superstardom in the '80s.

The group Van Halen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and Eddie is widely considered one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.

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Eddie's electrifying guitar solo on Michael Jackson's 5x platinum single "Beat It" helped propel the Thriller album into the stratosphere.

Eddie was uncredited on "Beat It" and he declined to accept payment for his contribution to music history.

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Eddie is survived by his wife Janie and his son, Wolfgang, whose mom is Eddie's first wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli. Eddie and Valerie divorced in 2007 after 26 years of marriage.

In her autobiography, Valerie suggested the main reasons for her divorce were her husband's cocaine addiction and his refusal to quit smoking despite being diagnosed with oral cancer and losing one-third of his tongue after chemotherapy.