"Beat It" at 40: A History of the Style Behind the Song

Our 40th anniversary celebration of Thriller continues

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CBS Records

"Just Beat It." As we continue to celebrate the 40th year of the legendary album Thriller, we’ve suddenly come up on another major anniversary as March 1983 was a big one for Michael Jackson with the video for “Billie Jean” being released in early March of 1983, the iconic Motown 25 performance where he debuted the Moonwalk for the first time being filmed around the middle of the month, and the video for “Beat It” making its grand premiere to close out one of the best months in music history honestly. That’s right, the short film for “Beat It” premiered on this day 40 years ago, and just like we did with “Billie Jean,” we’ll be taking you through a brief history of the song, and the fashion associated with it. Let’s get into it.

RELATED: Billie Jean at 40: A History of the Style Behind the Song

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CBS Records

Beat It Song History

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CBS Records

By the time “Beat It” was officially released as a single, Thriller was already well on its way to achieving astounding success as the album was becoming a worldwide phenomenon alongside the success of its previous two singles “The Girl Is Mine,” and “Billie Jean.” With the help of an epic guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen, “Beat It” was released as the record’s third single on February 14th, 1983, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for three weeks.

Later on that same year, Billboard ranked “Beat It” as the No. 5 song for 1983, and the track has since gone on to be certified 8x platinum with over 11 million copies sold, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. Furthermore, “Beat It” earned two Grammy Awards the following year Record of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

Beat It Music Video

The Style Behind the Song

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CBS Records

Now here’s where we get into the style part of this article. Fashion wise, “Beat It” is known for two iconic pieces—the red jacket and the piano t-shirt. Jackson can be seen at the beginning of the video wearing the piano keys t-shirt as he’s lying in the bed, and the cool thing is that you can find various replications of this shirt on places such as 80sTees and even Amazon. As for the red zippered jacket with gold accents, that was designed by Marc Laurent for the video. Similar to the piano keys shirt, you can also find various replications of the jacket on places like Amazon. It should also be noted that underneath the jacket, Jackson wore a graphic tee with the word Amour written on it.

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CBS Records

Just like with “Billie Jean,” the performances for “Beat It” featured Jackson wearing different red jackets through the years as the jacket became associated with the song. Here’s how the performances for the song evolved through the years.

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The Jacksons 1984 Victory Tour / CBS Records
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1987 Bad Tour / CBS Records
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1992 Dangerous Tour / HBO
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1997 History Tour / CBS Records

And a little black jacket switch up.

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2001 30th Anniversary Special / CBS

You already know we'll be back in November for "Thriller." Until then make sure to stay tuned for more style content and updates.

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