Michael Jackson

Beat It

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Michael Jackson wanted to write a rock song that appealed to kids and had an anti-violence theme. Producer Quincy Jones tried to call guitar virtuoso Edward Van Halen. Because Van Halen couldn't hear Jones on his end, he thought it was a crank call and let loose with a string of expletives. On the third try, Jones got through and invited Van Halen down to the recording session for "Beat It." The guitarist was so thrilled to be there that he refused any pay for his work, looking at it as a favor. The session also listed Greg Phillinganes, Steve Porcaro, Bill Wolfer, Steve Lukather, Tom Bahler, Paul Jackson Jr., Jeff Porcaro, and engineer Bruce Swedien. CBS/Epic didn't want to release "Beat It",fearing that it would interfere with the ascendancy of "Billie Jean"; either "Billie Jean" would be dropped from radio play lists to add "Beat It" or "Billie Jean" would garner so much attention that "Beat It" wouldn't be added.Jackson's manager Frank DiLeo assured the label that both tracks would occupy the pop Top Ten; he turned out to be right. There was some controversy concerning the West Side Story-themed "Beat It" music video.MTV refused to air it with the result being CBS Records banning all their other music videos from the network.Motown artist Rick James, whose videos were also not being played by MTV, leveled charges of racism. As the third single from Thriller, "Beat It" went platinum, going to number one R&B and number one pop for three weeks in the spring of 1983.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Thriller 1982 Epic 4:18
No Image 1991 Concorde
Dangerous: The Short Films 1993 Sony Music Distribution
HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I 1995 Epic 4:18
Video Greatest Hits: HIStory [Video] 1995 Sony Music Entertainment
History on Film, Vol. 2 1997 Sony Music Distribution 4:56
12 Inch Mixes 1998 Sony Music Distribution 4:17
The Ultimate Grammy Box: From the Recording Academy's Collection 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:19
Zoolander 2001
Original Soundtrack
Hollywood 6:13
Greatest Hits: HIStory, Vol. 1 2001 Epic 4:18
Number Ones 2003 Epic 4:18
Number Ones [DVD] 2003 Epic 4:56
Off the Wall/Thriller 2004 Epic / Sony Music Entertainment 4:17
The Ultimate Collection [Sony/Epic] 2004 Legacy / Epic 4:19
The Essential Michael Jackson 2005 Legacy / Epic 4:18
No Image 2006 Epic 6:10
King of Pop 2008 Epic 4:16
The Collection 2009 Sony BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 4:18
Michael Jackson's This Is It 2009 Epic 4:18
NRJ Music Awards 2010 2009
Various Artists
EMI 4:17
I Love Papa 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music / Sony Music Distribution 4:20
The Broadcast Archives 2018 The Broadcast Archive 6:58
No Image Live Storm 7:12