Eddie Van Halen Is the Reason Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' Is Still Stuck in Your Head

Van Halen's contributions to music goes far beyond the guitar-shredding genre that defined the band. But guitarist Eddie Van Halen's musical contributions didn't stop and start with the family band. Eddie had a huge role in one of Michael Jackson's biggest songs.

"Beat It," the chart-topping single off of Jackson's 1982 album Thriller would not sound the same without Eddie Van Halen. That's because not only did the guitarist rip a 20-second solo that adds some gritty rock to Jackson's pop sound, he completely rearranged the way the song was constructed.

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Michael Jackson addresses a press conference at the O2 arena in London, on March 5, 2009. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images

In a 2012 interview with CNN, Van Halen spoke about his contributions to the Thriller album and revealed how he got involved with the record and how the recording process went, even how Michael Jackson reacted to the song after he got his hands on it.

According to Van Halen, legendary producer Quincy Jones called him, a call that the musician swore was a crank, and asked if he would want to play on one of Jackson's records. Of course, Van Halen knows who Michael Jackson was, but wasn't completely sure it was actually Jones who was calling him so he told Quincy he'd meet him at the studio and they'll go from there.

So when Eddie arrived at the studio, Jones and Jackson were waiting for him. Van Halen wasn't necessarily prepared for the session, but he was ready to make music.

"Michael left to go across the hall to do some children's speaking record. I think it was 'E.T.' or something. So I asked Quincy, 'What do you want me to do?' And he goes, 'Whatever you want to do.' And I go, 'Be careful when you say that. If you know anything about me, be careful when you say, 'Do anything you want!'" Van Halen recounted to CNN.

After listening to the original version of "Beat It," Van Halen asked if he could change some parts. Once he got the ok, he told the engineers to chop up one piece, put in another and after 10 minutes it was done. Van Halen improvised two solos for the song and Michael Jackson returned.

Unsure how he would take the new version of the song, Van Halen told Jackson of the changes. According to Van Halen, after Jackson listened to the new version the king of pop said, "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."

One hour and two packs of beer later--which Quincy and Eddie say was his payment--Van Halen's work on "Beat It" was complete and the rest is music history.

"I don't even think I'm credited on the record. It just says, 'Guitar solo: Question Mark' or Guitar solo: Frankenstein,'" Van Halen said.

If you're wondering why Eddie's Van Halen bandmates weren't around to help on the record, the guitarist said that they were either out of the country or not available.

"I just said, 'You know. Busted! Dave [Lee Roth], you were out of the country! "Al [Van Halen], you weren't around!" I couldn't call anyone and ask for permission," Eddie Van Halen said.

"Beat It" would go on to be the number one song in the country on Billboard's Top 100 for three straight weeks in 1983. The record would win Michael Jackson Record of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 1984 Grammy Awards.