Songwriter Rod Temperton dies aged 66

Rod Temperton
Rod Temperton

Rod Temperton

Heatwave founder and writer of some of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits, ‘Thriller’, ‘Off The Wall’ and ‘Rock With You’ dies

The world of British music was in shock today on learning of the death of Rod Temperton, the man who wrote Thriller and Rock With You for Michael Jackson as well as dozens of hits for other artists, and who was the founder of one of Britain’s most successful ever funk/soul acts, Heatwave.

Rodney Lynn Temperton was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire in 1949. He acquired a taste for pop music through listening to famous 60s pirate station Radio Luxembourg, and played drums in a band at school before moving over to keyboards. During his 20s he worked as a gigging musician around the clubs and dancehalls of the UK and Germany, until at the age of 27 he answered an ad in music weekly Melody Maker and became a founding member of Heatwave.

Heatwave, whose members hailed from the US, the UK, Jamaica and Czechoslovakia, would go on to score seven Top 20 singles and five Top 30 albums in the years 1976-1982, with their biggest hits being Boogie Nights, Mind-Blowing Decisions and Always And Forever. But by 1983, with the hits drying up, the group disbanded.

That was no hindrance to Temperton, however – he’d already left the band in 1978, despite continuing to write the majority of their songs. But Heatwave had caught the ear of Quincy Jones, who recruited him to write several songs for Michael Jackson’s 1979 album Off The Wall, including the title track and international No 1 hit Rock With You. Temperton’s relationship with Jackson and Jones continued on the Thriller album, for which he wrote Baby Be Mine and The Lady In My Life as well as the title track.

His place in music’s premier league now firmly established, Temperton became one of the most sought-after songwriters of his generation, penning a string of soul and funk hits such as George Benson’s Give Me The Night, James Ingram’s Yah Mo B There and The Brothers Johnson’s Stomp!. His songs were also recorded by the likes of Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Donna Summer, Jeffrey Osborne, Mica Paris and Siedah Garrett.

Temperton won a Grammy for his work on Quincy Jones’ Back On The Block album, and was nominated for two Oscars for his work with Jones on the soundtrack to the film The Color Purple.

Temperton passed away last week, but as per his instructions – he was famously a very private individual – the news was not announced until after a family funeral had taken place. Stars paying tribute on Twitter today included The Weeknd, LaToya Jackson, Mark Ronson and Nile Rodgers, who tweeted a picture of himself with Temperton and Quincy Jones.

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