“Beat It,” the classic collaboration between Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen, went Number One on the Billboard chart on this day in 1983.
“Beat It” hit the charts on 3/12/83, lasting 15 weeks and reaching #1 in the U.S. on April 30th, 1983, and #3 in the U.K. “Beat It” held the #1 spot for three weeks, and won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller went on to sell more than 30 million copies, and was the best selling album of all time to that point.
Eddie reflects on his experience working with award-winning producer/songwriter Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson in the later half of 1982:
“Certain people in the band at that time didn’t like me doing things outside the group. But Roth happened to be in the Amazon or somewhere, and Mike was at Disneyland and Al was up in Canada or something, and I was home alone. So I thought, well, they’ll never know. Seriously: who’s going to know that I played on a black guy’s record? Michael said ‘I love that high fast stuff you do.’ So I played two solos over it and said, ‘You guys pick the one you want.’ It was 20 minutes out of my day. I did it for free and later everybody was telling me, you could have got a royalty point out of that record. But it didn’t matter because Quincy wrote me a letter thanking me, and he signed it ‘The Asshole’. I framed it. Classic.”
Coincidentally, Eddie’s second collaboration with an R&B artist, LL Cool J, was released on April 30th, 2013, on the anniversary of “Beat It” going number one. Eddie played guitar on two tracks from LL Cool J’s Authentic album, “We’re The Greatest” and “Not Leaving Here Tonight.” You can listen to both of those songs in their entirety here.