“Beat It” is a song by American singer Michael Jackson from his 6th studio album, Thriller (1982). It was written by Jackson and produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones. Jones encouraged Jackson to include a rock song on the album. Jackson later said: “I wanted to write a song, the type of song that I would buy if I were to buy a rock song… and I wanted the children to really enjoy it—the school children as well as the college students.” It includes a guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen.
Following the successful Thriller singles “The Girl Is Mine” and “Billie Jean“, “Beat It” was released on February 14, 1983, as the album’s 3rd single. It peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying there for 3 weeks. It also charted at #1 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. Billboard ranked the song #5 for 1983. It is certified 5x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). With over 7 million copies sold worldwide, it is one of the best-selling singles of all time. “Beat It” was a #1 hit in Europe, reaching #1 in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The “Beat It” music video, which features Jackson bringing two gangs together through the power of music and dance, helped establish Jackson as an international pop icon. The single, along with its music video, helped make Thriller the best-selling album of all time. “Beat It” has been cited as one of the most successful, recognized, awarded and celebrated songs in the history of popular music; both the song and video had a large impact on pop culture.
“Beat It” received the 1984 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, as well as two American Music Awards. It was inducted into the Music Video Producers Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone ranked “Beat It” #337 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004, and at #185 in its 2021 update of the list. The magazine also name it the 81st greatest guitar song of all time. It was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.