Eddie Van Halen played the guitar solo on "Beat It." He did it as a favor for Quincy Jones and was not paid, unless you count the two six-packs of beer brought into the studio. Eddie connected to Quincy through Ted Templeman, who was Van Halen's producer and friends with Jones. It was good timing because Eddie's bandmates were out of town, so they couldn't give him any static for taking on another project. He figured nobody would ever know it was him on the record. According to Eddie, he had the engineer restructure the song to accommodate his solo, then blasted out two takes. Jackson showed up after the second take and was thrilled that Eddie cared enough about the song to rework it. Eddie told CNN: "He was this musical genius with this childlike innocence. He was such a professional, and such a sweetheart." When Van Halen's 1984 album rose to #2 in America for three weeks in March 1984, it was held off the top spot by Thriller.
Part of Jackson's legacy was his crossover success with white audiences, something many Motown artists achieved, but Jackson took to a new level. He was the first black artist to get regular airplay on MTV, and this song helped expand his audience further by bringing in some of the Van Halen listeners. "Beat It" was a key track in Jackson's rise to superstardom.
Jackson wrote this song. He came up with it when his producer, Quincy Jones, encouraged him to write something like "My Sharona," which was a huge hit for The Knack in 1979. (Confirmed in Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones.)
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