The Eddie Van Halen & Michael Jackson “Beat It” Story
Rest in heaven to the one and only Eddie Van Halen. He passed away at the age of 65 on Tuesday after losing his battle with cancer. God bless you Eddie and peace to your family.
Known worldwide by many for being one OF THE BEST guitarist ever his skills were legendary. And by his own admission, he's never been able to read music. (Wikipedia)
You know about him and his band Van Halen. But did you know about Eddie and Michael Jackson?
And of all the stories and collaborations of rock and rap or metal and r&b so to speak, this one is pretty special.
You are familiar with "Beat It" yes?
Did you know that the amazing guitar solo in that song was performed by none other than Eddie Van Halen?
And he was skeptical of doing it from the start.
He did it for free and didn't get any credit on the album nor did he appear in the music video. But please do watch the video up top of Eddie performing with Michael back in 1984 in Dallas,Texas.
Van Halen worked for free, was not credited on the album and didn’t appear in the video. But his touch was undisguisable. After the record’s release, Van Halen would remember shopping in a Tower Records while “Beat It” was playing on the sound system.
“The solo comes on, and I hear these kids in front of me going, ‘Listen to this guy trying to sound like Eddie Van Halen,’” he said. “I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘That IS me!’ That was hilarious.” (Seattle Times)
As a matter of fact, the story goes that Quincy Jones called Eddie and he didn't believe it was really him when he did.
As a matter of fact he all but cursed him out.
Afterwards, Eddie signed on to do it, got to the studio, spent an hour on rearranging the track, and recorded a 20 second solo that changed the song altogether.
“I didn’t know how he would react to what I was doing. So I warned him before he listened. I said, ‘Look, I changed the middle section of your song,’” Van Halen told CNN. “Now in my mind, he’s either going to have his bodyguards kick me out for butchering his song, or he’s going to like it. And so he gave it a listen, and he turned to me and went, ‘Wow, thank you so much for having the passion to not just come in and blaze a solo, but to actually care about the song, and make it better.’” (Seattle Times)
You can read the complete story here courtesy of The Seattle Times.
Below is a video of Steve Lukather (one of the founding members of Toto) and his story of recording "Beat It" with Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen. Funny stuff and some true behind the scenes rock and roll history. Enjoy.