How Van Halen Changed Michael Jackson's Beat It And Music History
By | January 14, 2022
“Beat It,” improbably, blended the genius of Eddie Van Halen and Michael Jackson to ignite the King of Pop’s most iconic album. Prior to Thriller’s 1982 November release, MJ had not yet assumed the mantle. Yes, Jackson already owned Grammys, American Music Awards, and secured the highest royalty rate in the industry at 37%.
However, the monumental crossover success of his “Thriller” album, highlighted by “Beat It” took Jackson to heights previously unknown. It sold the world over and then some while also receiving credit for taking hard rock mainstream. Perhaps most incredibly, Van Halen only earned a pair of six-packs for his cataclysmic inducing input. As they say, “it doesn't matter who's wrong or right. Just beat it.”
A Phone Call For The Ages
Typically, when a musician accumulates the level of success of someone like Van Halen, they don’t dole out their genius willy-nilly. So when Quincy Jones called and asked if Eddie would lay some chords for Michael Jackson, he actually thought it was a prank call. Undoubtedly, if the other members of Van Halen were in Los Angeles at the time, he never would have ended up on “Beat It.”
As Eddie recalled, "Everybody (from Van Halen) was out of town and I figured, 'Who's gonna know if I play on this kid's record?' I did it as a favor. I was a complete fool, according to the rest of the band, our manager and everyone else. I was not used. I knew what I was doing. It was 20 minutes of my life. I didn’t want anything for doing that... I literally thought to myself, ‘Who is possibly going to know if I play on this kid’s record?’