Rod Temperton was a songwriter best known for writing “Thriller” and “Rock With You,” two of Michael Jackson‘s biggest hits. He was also an Oscar nominee and a member of the Disco band Heatwave. Temperton died last week at age 68.
Here’s a look at Temperton’s life and career. During his career, he earned the nickname “The Invisible Man,” since he spent most of his time working behind the scenes with major music stars.
1. Temperton Died Following a Battle With Cancer
Temperton’s death was announced in a statement from music publisher Warner/Chappell, whose chairman Jon Platt told the BBC that he died last week after a “brief aggressive battle with cancer.”
“His family is devastated and request total privacy,” Platt added.
Temperton’s funeral has already taken place. His wife’s name is Kathy.
Temperton was born in Cleethorpes, England on October 9, 1947. In 1974, he joined the band Heatwave, which launched his career in the music business.
2. Temperton Wrote Heatwave’s ‘Boogie Nights’ & ‘Always And Forever’
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Heatwave produced several hits. The group was founded by Johnny Wilder and Keith Wilder, brothers who were stationed in Germany when they decided to form a band. They moved to the U.K., where they met Temperton.
Temperton was their main songwriter, penning every song on their first album, Too Hot To Handle. The record included the smash hits “Boogie Nights” and “Always And Forever.” Although Temperton left the group in 1979, they continued to record songs written by him. When the group recorded another album in 1988, Temperton was not involved.
3. Temperton Wrote 3 Songs for Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall,’ Including ‘Rock With You’
Temperton began a long association with Quincy Jones in 1979, when Michael Jackson was working on his first solo album away from Motown. The end result was Off The Wall, which included the title track, “Rock With You” and “Burn This Disco Out.” Those three songs were written by Temperton.
Jones recruited Temperton to write for Jackson, notes The Guardian. Their partnership continued with Jackson’s Thriller. The two also shared an Oscar nomination with Lionel Richie for the song “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister)” from The Color Purple.
4. Temperton’s Original Title for the ‘Thriller’ Album was ‘Starlight’
Jones had asked Temperton to come up with the title for the album that would become Thriller, Temperton told the Telegraph in 2009. He originally came up with Starlight, but Jones didn’t like that.
“I went back to the hotel, wrote two or three hundred titles and came up with Midnight Man,” Temperton recalled. “The next morning I woke up and I just said this word. Something in my head just said, ‘This is the title.’ You could visualize it at the top of the Billboard charts. You could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page as Thriller.”
5. Temperton Also Wrote 5 Songs for the Movie ‘Running Scared,’ Including ‘Sweet Freedom’
In 1986, Temperton wrote five songs for the film Running Scared with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. Among the songs was “Sweet Freedom,” which was performed by Michael McDonald. The soundtrack also featured “Man Size Love,” performed by Klymaxx.
Temperton also collaborated with Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, The Brothers Johnson, Anita Baker, George Benson and Donna Summer.