“Beat It” by Michael Jackson
“Beat It” by Michael Jackson mainly focuses on avoiding violence by deliberately walking away from a fight. It is based on the introspection that goes on in every individual, mostly men when they find themselves in a fight or lose situation.
The message in this song is quite clear, however it can be interpreted from different perspectives. In the first verse, it appears Michael is advising a young man who gets involved with a gang to stay away because they don’t want him around anymore. They threaten him not to show up but he’s still trying to prove himself and is still bent on going anyways.
The other side to the story is that despite the threats, choosing not to stand up and fight makes one feel less of a man and more of a wimp. This is the pressure a lot of guys face. On the inside, they know the smartest thing to do is not to pick up a fight. However, in their attempt to avoid being called weak, they do so or retaliate, and the cycle of violence continues.
The verses can also be categorized into two voices; the good voice which only wants peace, and the negative voice which wants you to get aggressive. The voices speak consequently in the second verse. For instance, the good voice tells him they’re out to get him so he has to leave while he can. However, the bad voice urges him to be a man, stand up for himself and not a boy who just runs off.
Then the evil voice nudges him again to do something to show that he’s really not scared. But the good voice reasons with him and tells him he’s playing with his life, this is not a truth or dare game.
Michael Jackson was also trying to reveal the twisted view of bravery and cowardice in society. He shed light on the point that sometimes being brave means to let your opponent slap you on the other cheek, even when you have the strength to beat him flat out.
The Message of “Beat It”
The crucial message in the song “Beat It” is the fact that it really doesn’t make sense to prove how strong you are by being violent. The truth is no one wants to be called a loser, but everybody can be a winner if we let peace win. So many wars and deaths will be avoided if people let go of blame games and just walked away from violence.
Music Video for “Beat It”
Michael Jackson financed the music video to “Beat It” himself, at a cost of $150,000. The music video was filmed in a downtrodden area of Los Angeles. And, once again keeping to the theme of street violence, the visual, which was written and directed by Bob Giraldi, contained over 50 actual gang members.
The music video premiered on MTV on the date of 31 March 1983. It went on to receive a number of awards, including being inducted into the Music Video Producer’s Hall of Fame.
Release Date of “Beat It”
This track was released by Epic Records on 18 February 1983. It was the third single from Michael Jackson’s classic album, “Thriller”.
Writing Credits for “Beat It”
This classic was written by Michael Jackson. He also co-produced it alongside the legendary Quincy Jones.
Eddie Van Halen is on this Classic
The guitar solo in this song was played by none other than rock icon Eddie Van Halen. He did so for free as a favor to Quincy Jones, who personally requested that he be featured on the song.
However, Quincy did write Eddie Van Halen a thank you letter for his participation, which Van Halen has actually kept.
Success upon Success
“Beat It”, of course, proved to be massive success. For instance, it took home two Grammy Awards in 1984 (one of which was for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance). It also grabbed the prestigious Record of the Year award.
Accordingly, it had topped the Billboard Hot 100 as well music charts in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
It also broke the top 10 in the following regions:
- South Africa
- Britain (where it peaked at number 3)
Later Rolling Stone named it to two of their distinguished lists – “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” (at number 344) and “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time” (number 81).
Simply put, “Beat It” is one of the most-popular songs in the history of modern music. In fact communications’ giant Sony Ericsson conducted a poll in 2005. In that poll, “Beat It” earned the distinction of being the fourth-favorite song of the entire world.
As such it has made numerous appearances in pop media, such as television commercials from prominent organizations like Delta Air Lines and Nintendo. Furthermore, it has been featured on “Back to the Future Part II” (1989) and other major-motion pictures.
Inspiration for “Beat It”
“Beat It” was the result of a conscientious effort by Michael and Quincy to come out with a rock song. Jackson’s specific goal when penning the track was to “write… the type of song that (he) would buy if (he) were to buy a rock song”.
In terms of his lyrical content being centered on the theme of street violence, MJ’s older brother, Jermaine, has suggested that the King of Pop’s inspiration for writing this song was actually gang violence the family experienced growing up in Gary, Indiana.
In addition to being featured on “Thriller”, “Beat It” has made appearances on a number of Michael Jackson’s live and compilation albums. Indeed it is one of his most-popular tunes, one he used on the setlist of all of his global tours.
This track has been covered by Fall Out Boy (and numerous other artists) as well as officially remixed by the likes of Wyclef Jean and The Black-Eyed Peas.
Moreover comedian Weird Al Yankovic, who is known for parodying famous songs, perhaps had his most-famous one ever with 1984’s “Eat It”. That song was based on “Beat It”. In fact Michael Jackson is officially credited as a co-writer of “Eat It”.