The Truth About Whether Eddie Van Halen Got Paid By Michael Jackson For The Beat It Solo
There are a lot of legendary stories that have remained mysteries in the history of rock music and one of the most remarkable ones is without a doubt the one considering whether Eddie Van Halen actually received any money from Michael Jackson for whom he created an iconic solo back in 1982.
Van Halen’s co-founder and iconic guitarist who revolutionized the instrument, unfortunately, passed away on October 6, 2020, after battling cancer for over four years. Eddie’s passing left his loving ones heartbroken who found the remedy in his music. While some praised his musical genius, others reignited the discussion about whether Eddie actually got paid for the ‘Beat It’ solo.
Did Eddie Van Halen Write A Solo For Michael Jackson’s Beat It?
As the legend has it The Who’s Pete Townshend was the first one to be asked for a solo for ‘Beat It.’ However, as he was busy he declined and instead recommended Eddie. Soon after that, Eddie called Pete and they had a lovely chat during which Pete recalls thinking that Eddie loved making music and was ‘so happy to be doing what he did.’
Here’s what he said during an interview with Rolling Stone:
“I was once asked by Michael Jackson to play electric guitar on the Thriller album. I said I couldn’t do it but recommended Eddie who called and we chatted. He was utterly charming, happy about the connection, but told me how much he was enjoying playing keyboards. His smile was just classic. A man in his rightful place, so happy to be doing what he did.”
After the producer contacted Eddie Van Halen for the gig, he met up with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. Eddie not only nailed the solo but he actually had some notes for Jackson. He changed some things in the song which he later admitted was a risky move as he didn’t know how Jackson would react.
Did Michael Jackson Pay Eddie Van Halen For His Beat It Solo?
After Eddie Van Halen finished the modifications that he wanted to do in the song, he proceeded to work on the solos which he created in a short time. It should be mentioned that coming up with a rock solo for a pop song is no piece of cake and managing to create such a complicated and powerful rock solo that suits a pop song so well is definitely the proof of musical genius.
When Michael heard Eddie’s changes on the song and the solos he’d come up with, he couldn’t hide his admiration of the guitarist. He thanked Eddie for his hard work and passion which helped him come up with such a great solo.
‘Beat It’ was featured in Jackson’s sixth studio album Thriller which was released in 1983. The song ranked No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained there for three weeks. ‘Beat It’ is often credited as the track that made Thriller the best-selling album of all time.
Here’s what Eddie said about that solo during an interview with CNN in 2012:
“I listened to the song, and I immediately go, ‘Can I change some parts?’ I turned to the engineer and I go, ‘OK, from the breakdown, chop in this part, go to this piece, pre-chorus, to the chorus, out.’ Took him maybe 10 minutes to put it together. And I proceeded to improvise two solos over it.
I was just finishing the second solo when Michael walked in. And you know artists are kind of crazy people. We’re all a little bit strange. 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.’
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.'”
Although it is clear that Michael Jackson appreciated Eddie Van Halen’s work and applauded his genius, most sources say that Jackson never paid Eddie. Thus, Eddie’s ‘Beat It’ solo came to be known as one of the best solos ever created and probably the only one that such an icon created for free.
You can listen to Eddie’s unforgettable solo below.