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How Quincy Jones Got Eddie Van Halen To Play The Guitar Solo on Thriller’s “Beat It”

He’s a genius with the guitar. One of the legendary musicians who reshaped the art form back in the late 1970s. Today, Eddie Van Halen is synonymous with some of the most mind-blowing guitar exploits in the history of rock, but there’s one in particular that music fans might have forgotten – the guitar solo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” one of the anthems on the untouchable Thriller album.

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So how did Eddie and Michael come together for the collaboration? Since it’s Eddie’s birthday today (his 62nd), we thought we’d share a fun story that we were told about Eddie and the Thriller project.

We had the honor and the privilege to have interviewed the music icon and legend that is Quincy Jones a few years back. Jones produced the Thriller album and so we asked him how the inclusion of Eddie Van Halen came to be. Here’s the fascinating account from Jones himself…

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“The first five times I called Eddie, he told me to f#$k off. He didn’t believe that it was me calling. So we called again and told him that it was me calling and he finally realized it and said, ‘I’m so sorry, man!’ He came down to the studio. We got two 6 packs of beer and two Gibson guitars. Michael (Jackson) was in the other room recording something else with the engineer and I went in with Eddie and we were done with it in no time at all. I told him, ‘I called you because I want you to be you and respond to this the way you respond to anything that you play.’

“I’ve got this Thriller album structured air tight and then I get everyone involved to put their personalities into it. It turned out very strong.”