Beat It: Wikis


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"Beat It"
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Thriller
Released February 14, 1983 (1983-02-14)
Recorded 1982
Genre Hard rock
Length 4:18
Label Epic Records
Writer(s) Michael Jackson
Producer Michael Jackson
Quincy Jones
Certification Platinum (RIAA)
Gold (RIANZ)[1]
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Billie Jean"
"Beat It"
"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
Alternative cover
Thriller track listing
"Beat It"
"Billie Jean"
HIStory track listing
"Beat It"
"The Girl Is Mine"

"Beat It" is a song written and performed by American recording artist Michael Jackson and co-produced by Quincy Jones for the singer's sixth solo album, Thriller (1982). Eddie Van Halen was drafted to add the song's distinctive overdriven guitar solo. Following the successful chart performances of the Thriller singles "The Girl Is Mine" and "Billie Jean", "Beat It" was released on February 14, 1983 as the album's third single. The song was promoted with a short film that featured Jackson bringing two gangs together through the power of dance.

A commercial success, "Beat It" was awarded two Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards and was inducted into the Music Video Producers Hall of Fame. "Beat It" (along with the song's music video) propelled Thriller into becoming the best-selling album of all time. The single was certified platinum in 1989. Rolling Stone magazine placed "Beat It" in the 337th spot on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time[2] and on the list of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[3]

In the decades since its release, "Beat It" has been covered, parodied, and sampled by numerous artists including Fergie, Weird Al Yankovic, and Fall Out Boy. The song was also featured in the National Highway Safety Commission's anti-drunk driving campaign.


Production and music

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"Beat It" was written by Michael Jackson for his Thriller album. Co-producer Quincy Jones had wanted to include a rock 'n' roll song, though Jackson reportedly had never previously shown an interest in the genre.[4][5] Jackson later said of "Beat It", "I wanted to write a song, the type of song that I would buy if I were to buy a rock song... That is how I approached it and I wanted the kids to really enjoy it—the school kids as well as the college kids."[6] Upon hearing the first recorded vocals, Jones stated that it was exactly what he was looking for.[4] Rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, lead guitarist of hard rock band Van Halen, was then requested to add a guitar solo.[5][7]

When initially contacted by Jones, Van Halen thought he was receiving a prank call. Having established that the call was genuine, Van Halen recorded his guitar solo free of any charge. "I did it as a favor", the musician later said. "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 - I don't do something unless I want to do it."[8] Van Halen recorded his contribution following Jones and Jackson arriving at the guitarist's house with a "skeleton version" of the song. Fellow guitarist Steve Lukather recalled, "Initially, we rocked it out as Eddie had played a good solo—but Quincy thought it was too tough. So I had to reduce the distorted guitar sound and that is what was released."[8] The song was among the last four completed for Thriller; the others were "Human Nature", "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" and "The Lady in My Life".[8]

On the record, right before Van Halen's guitar solo begins, a noise is heard that sounds like somebody knocking at a door. It is reported that the knock was a person walking into Van Halen's recording studio. Another story has claimed that the sound was simply the musician knocking on his own guitar.[9] The lyrics of "Beat It" are about defeat and courage, and have been described as a "sad commentary on human nature".[10] The line "don't be a macho man" is said to express Jackson's dislike of violence, whilst also referencing the childhood abuse he faced at the hands of his father Joseph.[11] The song is played in the key of Eb minor at a moderately fast tempo of 132 beats per minute.[12] In the song, Jackson's vocal range is B3 to D5.[12]

Release and reception

The uncredited guitarist who whipped out the fluttering, squealing solo on this ode to macho cowardice was Eddie Van Halen. The aerodynamic metal flight pumped crossover fuel that would boost the success of "Thriller" — a gimmick Jackson would flog later with spots from Slash and Carlos Santana. Without the Van Halen precedent, there might have been no collaboration of Run-DMC and Aerosmith on the 1986 rap/rock version of "Walk This Way".

"Beat It" was released on February 14, 1983, following the successful chart performances of "The Girl Is Mine" and "Billie Jean". Frank Dileo, the vice president of Epic Records, convinced Jackson to release "Beat It" whilst "Billie Jean" was heading towards number one. Dileo, who would later become the singer's manager, predicted that both singles would remain in the Top 10 at the same time.[8] "Billie Jean" remained atop the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, before being toppled by "Come On Eileen". The Dexys Midnight Runners' song stayed at number one for a single week, before Jackson reclaimed the position with "Beat It".[8][14]

"Billie Jean" and "Beat It" occupied Top 5 positions at the same time, a feat matched by very few artists. The single remained at the top of the Hot 100 for a total of three weeks.[8] The song also charted at number one on the US R&B singles chart and number 14 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart in the US.[15] "Beat It" also claimed the top spot in Spain and The Netherlands, reached number three in the UK, the Top 20 in Austria, Norway, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, numbers 31 in Denmark and number 47 in France.[15][16]

In a Rolling Stone review, Christopher Connelly describes "Beat It" as the best song on Thriller, adding that it "ain't no disco AOR track". He notes of the "nifty dance song", "Jackson's voice soars all over the melody, Eddie Van Halen checks in with a blistering guitar solo, you could build a convention center on the backbeat".[17] Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine states that the song is both "tough" and "scared".[18] Robert Christgau claimed that the song, in which Eddie Van Halen "wends his night in the service of antimacho", is the "triumph and the thriller". Slant Magazine observed that the song was an "uncharacteristic dalliance with the rock idiom".[19] Stylus expressed amazement that Van Halen performed a rock guitar solo on a R&B record.[20] The track also won praise from Jackson biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, who stated that the song was "rambunctious".[5]

"Beat It" has been recognized with several awards. At the 1984 Grammy Awards the song earned Jackson two of a record eight awards; Record of the Year and Best Rock Vocal Performance. The track won the Billboard Music Award for favorite dance/disco 12" LP in 1983.[15][21] The single was certified gold, a few months after its release, for shipments of at least one million units. In 1989, the standard format single was re-certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, based on the revised sales level of one million units for platinum singles.[22] The total number of digital sales in the US, as of March 2009, stands at 668,000.[23]

Music video

Jackson in the music video for "Beat It".

The short film for "Beat It", directed by Bob Giraldi and choreographed by Michael Peters, helped establish Jackson as an international pop icon.[24][25] The film was Jackson's first treatment of black youth and the streets. Both "Beat It" and Thriller are notable for their "mass choreography" of synchronized dancers, a Jackson trademark.[26] The video included around 80 genuine gang members—to add authenticity to the production—and 18 professional dancers.[27] Inspired by the Broadway musical West Side Story, the video cost Jackson $150,000 to create after CBS refused to finance it.[21][27] The video's featured choreography opened up many job opportunities for dancers in the US.[28]

The music video opens with the news of a fight circulating at a diner. This scene repeats itself at a pool hall, where gang members arrive via foot, forklift, and out of sewers. The camera cuts to a scene of Jackson lying on a bed, contemplating the senseless violence. The singer leaves the room upon hearing the commotion caused by the rival gangs. Donning a red leather J. Parks brand jacket, Jackson dances his way through the diner and pool hall, towards the fight. Arriving at the scene,where a knife fight is taking place between the two gang leaders, the singer breaks up the fight and launches into a dance routine. The video ends with the gang members joining him in the dance, agreeing that violence is not the solution to their problems.[25]

The video received recognition through numerous awards. The American Music Awards named the short film their Favorite Pop/Rock Video and their Favorite Soul Video. The Black Gold Awards honored Jackson with the Best Video Performance award. The Billboard Video Awards recognised the video with 7 awards; Best Overall Video Clip, Best Performance by a Male Artist, Best Use of Video to Enhance a Song, Best Use of Video to Enhance an Artist's Image, Best Choreography, Best Overall Video and Best Dance/Disco 12". The short film was ranked by Rolling Stone as the number one video, in both their critic's and reader's poll. The video was later inducted into the Music Video Producer's Hall of Fame.[21]

Live performances

On July 4, 1984, Jackson performed "Beat It" live with his brothers during The Jacksons' Victory Tour. The brothers were joined on stage by Eddie Van Halen, who played the guitar in his solo spot.[21] The song became a signature song of Jackson; the singer performed it on all of his world tours; Bad, Dangerous and HIStory.[21][29] The October 1, 1992 Dangerous Tour performance of "Beat It" was included on the DVD of the singer's Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection box set. The DVD was later repackaged as Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.[21][29] Jackson also performed the song on the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special, a concert celebrating the musician's thirtieth year as a solo performer. The performance featured Slash as the song's guest guitarist.[29]

A highlight of Jackson's solo concert tour performances of the song is that would he would begin the song on a cherrypicker, (in a similar fashion as he did with Earth Song during the HIStory Tour.) "Beat It" is a song, along with Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' and "Billie Jean", that Jackson had performed in all of his concert tours: Victory Tour, Bad World Tour, Dangerous World Tour, and the HIStory World Tour. The song also would've been performed on This Is It but the concert series was cancelled due to Jackson's sudden death.


Chart (1983) Peak
Austrian Singles Chart 6[16]
Danish Singles Chart 31[30]
Dutch Singles Chart 1[31]
French Singles Chart 47[32]
Italian Singles Chart 12[33]
New Zealand Singles Chart 1[34]
Norwegian Singles Chart 8[35]
Spanish Singles Chart 1[36]
Swedish Singles Chart 19[37]
Swiss Singles Chart 2[38]
UK Singles Chart 3[39]
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1[15]
U.S. R&B Singles Chart 1[15]
Chart (2009) Peak
Australian Singles Chart 17[40]
Danish Singles Chart 16[30]
Finnish Singles Chart 12[41]
French Digital Singles Chart 4[42]
Norwegian Singles Chart 8[43]
Swedish Singles Chart 37[37]
Swiss Singles Chart 5[38]
New Zealand Singles Chart 24[34]
Turkey Top 20 Chart 14[44]
U.K. Top 40 Downloads 17[45]
U.S. Hot Digital Songs 7[46]


Country Certification Sales
New Zealand Gold[1] 7,500
U.S. Platinium 1,000,000

Track listing

Visionary Single

  • Cd Side:
  1. Beat It (Album Version) - 4:18
  2. Beat It (Moby's Sub Mix) - 6:11
  • Dvd Side:
  1. Beat It (Music Video) - 4:56

Beat It 2008

"Beat It 2008"
Song by Michael Jackson featuring Fergie

from the album Thriller 25

Released February 8, 2008
Format CD, digital download
Recorded 2007
Genre Rock
Length 4:12
Label Epic, Legacy Recordings
Writer Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Quincy Jones
Kanye West
Audio sample
file info · help
Thriller 25 track listing
"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008 with Akon"
"Beat It 2008"
"Billie Jean 2008"

For Thriller 25, Black Eyed Peas singer remixed "Beat It".[47] Entitled "Beat It 2008", the song featured additional vocals by's fellow Black Eyed Peas member, Fergie.[48][49] Upon its release in 2008, the song reached number 26 in Switzerland, the Top 50 in Sweden and number 65 in Austria.[50] Following the reworking as Moby's Sub Mix, released on the Jam single in 1992[51] (and rereleased as part of the Visionary campaign[52]), this was the second remixed version of "Beat It" to get an official release.


"Beat It 2008" received generally unfavorable reviews from music critics. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone claimed that the song was a "contender for the year's most pointless musical moment".[53]'s Bill Lamb stated that Fergie's "sonically flattened" version of "Beat It" was "embarrassing".[54] Allmusic criticized Fergie for "parroting the lyrics of 'Beat It' back to a recorded Jackson".[55] Blender's Kelefa Sanneh also noted that the Black Eyed Peas singer traded lines with Jackson. "Why?", she queried.[56] Todd Gilchrist was thankful that the remix retained Eddie Van Halen's "incendiary guitar solo", but added that the song "holds the dubious honor of making Jackson seem masculine for once, and only in the context of Fergie's tough-by-way-of-Kids Incorporated interpretation of the tune".[57] Tom Ewing of Pitchfork Media observed that Fergie's "nervous reverence is a waste of time".[58]


Chart (2008) Peak
Austrian Singles Chart 65[50]
Swedish Singles Chart 21[59]
Swiss Singles Chart 26[60]
Chart (2009) Peak
Swedish Singles Chart 8[61]

Remix credits

  • Original song written by Jackson
  • Original recording produced by Jones/Jackson
  • Remix drums:
  • Remix keyboards and synths:
  • Remix engineered by and Kerin
  • Remix produced and mixed by
  • Remix recorded in November 2007

Cover and sample versions

One of the earliest samples of "Beat It" was "Weird Al" Yankovic's 1984 parody song, "Eat It".[62] Yankovic recorded the song with Jackson's permission.[63] "The only reason he let me is that he has a sense of humour", Yankovic later said. "It is heartening to find somebody that popular, talented and powerful, who can really take a joke".[62] He added, "Certainly there's a lot of major stars in the pop culture scene today, but people like Michael Jackson don't come around that often".[64] The song won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording and was certified gold in 1989.[62] The song's music video mocked the "Beat It" short film scene-for-scene, with Yankovic mimicking Jackson's dance moves in a clumsy fashion.[65] Jackson received royalties from Yankovic due to the strong similarities.[66]

A remix of "2 Bad", featured on Jackson's Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix album, contains a sample of "Beat It" as well as a rap by John Forté and guitar solo by Wyclef Jean.[67] Alvin and the Chipmunks performed the song during an episode of their TV series. In the episode, the Chipmunks and the Chipettes face off against bullies at an ice rink.[29] Heavy metal band Metallica performed a minute cover the song at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2003 and again during the 2009 Sonisphere Festival.[29] In 2004, Señor Coconut and His Orchestra released a Latin influenced cover of "Beat It".[29] Italian metal band Raintime covered the song on their 2007 album Flies & Lies.

Fall Out Boy

"Beat It"
Single by Fall Out Boy featuring John Mayer
from the album Live in Phoenix
Released March 25, 2008
Format digital download
Recorded 2008
Genre Hard rock, Pop rock
Length 3:48
Label Island
Producer Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy singles chronology
"I'm Like a Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You off (Me & You)"
"Beat It"
"'I Don't Care"
John Mayer singles chronology
"Beat It"
"Free Fallin'"
Audio sample
file info · help

Background, recording and release

In early 2008 it was announced that pop punk band Fall Out Boy were to cover "Beat It" for their Live in Phoenix album.[68] The band had previously performed the song at venues such as Coors Amphitheatre and festivals such as the Carling Weekend in Leeds.[69][70] Bassist Pete Wentz, who has claimed to have an obsession with Jackson, stated that prior to recording the song, he would only watch Moonwalker.[71] It was also announced that John Mayer was to add the guitar solo previously played by Eddie Van Halen.[72]

Patrick Stump stated that the band had not planned to cover the song. "Basically, I just started playing the riff in sound-check one day, and then we all started playing it, and then we started playing it live, and then we figured we'd record it and put it out with our live DVD."[73] Pete Wentz added that the band had not originally intended for the song to be released as a single either.[73] "'Beat It' seemed like a song that would be cool and that we could do our own take on", he said.[71] Having spent time deciding on a guitarist for the song, Wentz eventually called John Mayer to add the guitar solo. "We were trying to think about who is a contemporary guitar guy who's going to go down as a legend", Wentz later noted.[73]

Upon its digital release as a single in April 2008, Fall Out Boy's cover of "Beat It" became a mainstay on iTunes' Top 10 chart.[74] The song charted at number 13 in Australia and 14 in New Zealand. The cover reached number 75 in Austria and peaked at 98 in the Netherlands.[75] The Times claimed that the cover was "pointless".[76]

Music video

The music video for Fall Out Boy's "Beat It" was directed by Shane Drake, and was made in homage to Jackson. "I think when you're doing a Michael Jackson cover, there's this expectation that you're going to do one of his videos verbatim", Stump said. "What we decided to do was kind of inspired by Michael Jackson and the mythology of him. There are specific images that are reference points for us, but at any given point, it's not any of his videos. It's kind of all of his videos, all at once, but on a Fall Out Boy budget, so it's not quite as fancy".[77] The costumes for the video were similar to the originals. "My costume is this take on one of the guys from Michael Jackson's original 'Beat It' video, like, the guy who plays the rival dancer", Wentz said during the filming of the video.[77] The music video featured numerous cameos, including a karate class/dance session being taught by Tony Hale, and Donald Faison dressed up like Michael Jackson.[77] The short film later received a MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Rock Video.[78]


Chart Peak
Australian Singles Chart 13[75]
Austrian Singles Chart 75[79]
Dutch Singles Chart 98[80]
New Zealand Singles Chart 14[81]
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 19[82]
U.S. Billboard Pop 100 21[82]


Michael Jackson's "Beat It" has been cited as one of the most successful, recognized, awarded and celebrated songs in the history of pop music; both the song and video had a large impact on pop culture.[4] The song is said to be a "pioneer" in black rock music, and is considered one of the cornerstones of the Thriller album.[4] Eddie Van Halen has been praised for adding "the greatest guitar solo", aiding "Beat It" into becoming one of the biggest selling singles of all time.[4]

Shortly after its release, "Beat It" was included in the National Highway Safety Commission's anti-drunk driving campaign, "Drinking and Driving Can Kill a Friendship". The song was also included on the accompanying album. Jackson collected an award from President Ronald Reagan at the White House, in recognition for his support of the campaign.[21] Reagan stated that Jackson was "proof of what a person can accomplish through a lifestyle free of alcohol or drug abuse. People young and old respect that. And if Americans follow his example, then we can face up to the problem of drinking and driving, and we can, in Michael's words, 'Beat It'."[83]

Frequently listed in greatest song polling lists, "Beat It" was ranked as the world's fourth favorite song in a 2005 poll conducted by Sony Ericsson.[29] Over 700,000 people in 60 different countries cast their votes.[29] Voters from the UK placed "Billie Jean" at number one, ahead of "Thriller", with a further five of the top ten being solo recordings by Jackson.[29] Rolling Stone magazine placed "Beat It" in the 337th spot on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time[2] and on the list of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[3] The song was featured in the films Back to the Future II, Zoolander and Undercover Brother.[29] When re-released, as part of the Visionary campaign in 2006, "Beat It" charted at number 15 in the UK.[29]



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  • Austen, Jake (2005). TV-a-Go-Go. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 1556525729. 
  • Campbell, Lisa (1993). Michael Jackson: The King of Pop. Branden. ISBN 082831957X. 
  • Campbell, Lisa (1995). Michael Jackson: The King of Pops Darkest Hour. Branden. ISBN 0828320039. 
  • Dean, Maury (2003). Rock 'n' Roll Gold Rush. Algora Publishing. ISBN 0875862071. 
  • George, Nelson (2004). Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection booklet. Sony BMG.
  • Halstead, Craig (2007). Michael Jackson: For the Record. Authors OnLine. ISBN 978-0-7552026-7-6. 
  • Taraborrelli, J. Randy (2004). The Magic and the Madness. Terra Alta, WV: Headline. ISBN 0-330-42005-4. 
  • Thriller 25: The Book (2008). Thriller 25: The Book. ML Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-9768891-9-9. 
  • Whiteley, Sheila (2005). Too Much Too Young. Routledge. ISBN 0415310296. 
Preceded by
"Come on Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
April 30, 1983 – May 20, 1983 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Let's Dance" by David Bowie
Preceded by
"Candy Girl" by New Edition
Billboard Hot Black Singles number-one single
May 21, 1983 - May 27, 1983 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Save the Overtime (For Me)" by Gladys Knight and the Pips

Simple English

Beat It is a popular song by singer Michael Jackson. It appears on the album Thriller. There is also a video that goes with the song.


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