When Eddie Van Halen Joined Michael Jackson Onstage
We've all heard Eddie Van Halen's solo on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" more times than we can count. Only a select few, however, got to experience it performed live.
A fluke of scheduling found Van Halen in town when Jackson – on the Victory Tour with his siblings as the Jacksons – arrived for the group's July 13, 1984, concert in Dallas.
Jackson and Van Halen were in the midst of huge years, riding high on the success of career-defining LPs. Given that Eddie's distinctive cameo helped "Beat It" hit No. 1 earlier in the spring, they naturally couldn't pass up the opportunity to recreate the magic in front of an audience. Jackson sent the spotlight Van Halen's way by saying: "You got it, Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!" in the moments leading into Van Halen's solo.
He then returns to one of many outstanding solos in the legendary guitarist's career, though his contribution to "Beat It" remains a personal highlight. As Van Halen revealed in a 2011 interview, it's actually his favorite collaboration.
"When I got there, it took me 15 minutes to rearrange the song, and I played two solos and told them they could pick the one they liked best," he recalled. "Then Michael walked in and said, ‘Wow! I really like that high, fast stuff you do.’ It was a lot of fun to do. It’s crazy that something could take such a short amount of time and can grow into something beyond anything you could ever imagine."
Van Halen got a taste of its eventual impact while standing in line at a record store when "Beat It" started playing. "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.’ I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘That is me!’ That was hilarious," Van Halen said with a laugh in another interview after Jackson's 2009 death. "I have a lot of respect for Michael. He’s going to be sorely missed. I’d be curious as to what he’d be doing right now."
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