Wolfgang Van Halen Reveals Involvement in Oscar-Nominated 'I'm Just Ken' from Barbie

From a tribute concert to a blockbuster film soundtrack.

by Nouman Rasool
Wolfgang Van Halen Reveals Involvement in Oscar-Nominated 'I'm Just Ken' from Barbie
© Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Wolfgang Van Halen, a musician who made his debut playing bass in the iconic rock band Van Halen at the tender age of 16, has found himself contributing to an Academy Award-nominated song. Despite his rich musical pedigree, being the progeny of guitar legend Eddie Van Halen and celebrated actress Valerie Bertinelli, Wolfgang never anticipated his involvement in a project associated with a Barbie doll.

Yet, he played a pivotal role in the creation of "I'm Just Ken," a standout track from Greta Gerwig's critically acclaimed film, "Barbie," voiced by Ryan Gosling. The song, which quickly climbed the charts, was a collaborative effort featuring an illustrious lineup, including Mark Ronson and Andrew Watt in the roles of co-writers and producers, alongside guitar legend Slash, Foo Fighters' drummer Josh Freese, and keyboardist Roger Manning from Jelly Fish/Imperial Drag.

Wolfgang's guitar work on this track underscores the diverse talents contributing to its success. In a conversation with Billboard, Van Halen expressed his elation and surprise at the song's impact, underscoring the unique opportunity to be part of such a memorable project.

Unexpected Creative Alliance

This opportunity arose unexpectedly when Wolfgang met Mark Ronson at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concert in London. Their immediate rapport led to Wolfgang being invited to contribute his guitar skills to the "Barbie" soundtrack.

Spending two days in Ronson's studio, Wolfgang immersed himself in the creative process, a testament to the collaborative spirit and expertise that Ronson and Watt brought to the table. "I'm Just Ken" not only enjoyed commercial success, peaking within the top 5 on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart but also contributed to "Barbie The Album's" impressive achievements on the Billboard charts.

The song's popularity was further bolstered by a special "Merry Kristmas Barbie" version, which featured an in-studio performance video. Wolfgang's engagement with the "Barbie" project coincides with his continued commitment to his band, Mammoth WVH, which has been making waves on the music scene, opening for legendary acts like Metallica and Guns N' Roses.

Despite the excitement surrounding his involvement in the "Barbie" soundtrack, Wolfgang remains focused on his band's growth, exploring new musical avenues and maintaining a rigorous touring schedule.