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31 Years Ago: Eddie Van Halen Joins Michael Jackson Onstage

We’ve all heard Eddie Van Halen‘s solo on Michael Jackson‘s “Beat It“ more times than we can count. Only a select few, however, have heard it performed live.

It was only due to a fluke of scheduling that Van Halen happened to be in town when Jackson — on the Victory Tour with his siblings as the Jacksons — arrived in Dallas for the group’s July 14, 1984, concert. It was a huge year for Jackson as well as for Van Halen, with both acts riding high on the success of career-defining LPs; naturally, given that Eddie’s distinctive cameo had helped “Beat It” hit No. 1 earlier in the spring, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recreate the magic in front of an audience.

You can watch it all go down in the above video, starting with Jackson shouting “You got it, Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!” in the moments leading into Van Halen’s time in the spotlight. It’s just one of many outstanding solos in the legendary guitarist’s career, but his contribution to “Beat It” remains a personal highlight for Van Halen; as he revealed in a 2011 interview, it’s actually his favorite collaboration. “When I got there, it took me 15 minutes to rearrange the song, and I played two solos and told them they could pick the one they liked best,” he recalled. “Then Michael walked in and said, ‘Wow! I really like that high, fast stuff you do.’ It was a lot of fun to do. It’s crazy that something could take such a short amount of time and can grow into something beyond anything you could ever imagine.”

Van Halen got a taste of its eventual impact while standing in line at a record store when “Beat It” started playing. “The solo comes on, and I hear these kids in front of me going, ‘Listen to this guy trying to sound like Eddie Van Halen.’ I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘That is me!’ That was hilarious,” he laughed in an interview after Jackson’s 2009 death. ”I have a lot of respect for Michael. He’s going to be sorely missed. I’d be curious as to what he’d be doing right now.”

See Van Halen in the Top 100 Rock Albums of the ’70s

Van Halen Albums: Worst to Best

Next: The Top 10 Eddie Van Halen Guitar Solos

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