Michael Jackson's Beat It: two of rock's best guitarists recall how they helped create the groundbreaking hit, and the 30-second solo that changed the world

(from left) Michael Jackson, Eddie Van Halen and Steve Lukather
(Image credit: Paul Natkin, Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

With 40 years of cultural ubiquity under its belt, it's all too easy to take Beat It, Michael Jackson's groundbreaking 1982 smash hit single, for granted.

At the time, though, it marked a watershed moment in pop music – a dancefloor-friendly R&B/rock crossover with a swaggering riff, unstoppable groove, bullseye chorus, and haywire electric guitar solo, all packaged immaculately together by one of the great pop producers of all time, Quincy Jones.

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.