Rod Temperton

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Not to be confused with record producer Ted Templeman.
Rod Temperton
Rod Temperton.jpg
Background information
Birth name Rodney Lynn Temperton
Born (1947-10-09) 9 October 1947 (age 68)
Origin Cleethorpes, England
Occupation(s) Songwriter, record producer
Associated acts Michael Jackson, Heatwave, Quincy Jones

Rodney Lynn "Rod" Temperton (born 9 October 1947) is a British songwriter, record producer, and musician from Cleethorpes, England. He initially made his mark as the keyboardist and main songwriter for the R&B band Heatwave before writing several internationally known songs performed by Michael Jackson, including "Off The Wall," "Rock With You," and "Thriller."[1]


Early years[edit]

Temperton said in an interview that he was a musician from an early age; "My father wasn't the kind of person who'd read you a story before you went off to sleep – he used to put a transistor radio in the crib, right on the pillow, and I'd go to sleep listening to Radio Luxemburg and I think that had an influence".[2] Temperton attended De Aston School in Market Rasen and he formed a group for the school's music competitions. He was a drummer at this time. "I'd get in the living room with my snare drum and my cymbal and play along to the Test Card, which was all kinds of music they'd be playing continuously." On leaving school he started working in the office of a frozen food company in Grimsby.


He soon became a full-time musician however, a keyboard player now, and played in several dance bands, and this took him to Worms in Germany. In 1972 Temperton and guitarist Bernd Springer formed a soul cover band called Sundown Carousel. With Temperton on an old Hammond organ the band performed in clubs and GI bars in cities such as Mannheim.[citation needed] In 1974 he answered an advert in Melody Maker placed by Johnnie Wilder, Jr. and so became a member of the popular funk/disco band, Heatwave which Wilder was putting together at the time. "He was the first British guy that I had ever met personally. He spoke kind of funny but he had a good sense of humour and he was a very friendly guy. After meeting him and then seeing him play I kind of determined he was a good enough player and entertainer and I just knew he would fit in the group", said Wilder.[3] Temperton played tunes he had been composing to Johnny Wilder, Jr.: "I was very interested because we were doing a lot of cover tunes – we weren't doing a lot of original material – I was really interested." The songs provided material for 1976's Too Hot to Handle including "Boogie Nights", which broke the band in Britain and the United States, and the ballad, "Always and Forever" – both tracks were million-sellers in the US.[4]

Despite the slick American sound, Temperton's working surroundings were still far from glamorous. Alan Kirk, a Yorkshire musician with Jimmy James and the Vagabonds who toured with Heatwave in the mid 1970s remembered: "The Always and Forever track was written on a Wurlitzer piano at the side of a pile of pungent washing – sorry to disappoint all the romantics." And producer Barry Blue recalled: "He had a very small flat, so everything had to be done within one room and he had piles of washing, and had the T.V. on top of the organ. It was a nightmare (...) he had trams running outside (...) but he made it, he just absorbed himself in the music and Rod seemed to come up with these amazing songs".[5] In 1977 Heatwave followed up the success of their first L.P. with their second, Central Heating, Barry Blue again producing, and Temperton behind the majority of the songs. It included "The Groove Line", another huge selling hit single with the by now familiar Heatwave sound and Rod Temperton hook.

In 1978 Temperton decided to concentrate on writing and left Heatwave though he continued to write for the band.

Songs written for Michael Jackson[edit]

Temperton's work attracted the attention of Quincy Jones, and he asked his engineer Bruce Swedien to check out the Heatwave album. "Holy cow! I simply loved Rod's musical feeling – everything about it – Rod's arrangements, his tunes, his songs – was exceedingly hip," recalled Swedien. In 1979, Temperton was recruited by Quincy Jones to write for what became Michael Jackson's first solo album in four years, and his first full-fledged solo release for Epic Records, entitled Off the Wall. Temperton wrote three songs for the album, including "Rock with You" which became the second US No. 1 single from the album.

In the early 1980s Temperton left Germany and moved to Beverly Hills, California.[6] In 1982 Temperton wrote three songs, including the title track, for Jackson's next LP, Thriller, which became the biggest-selling album of all time. On coming up with the title Thriller, Temperton once said:

I went back to the hotel, wrote two or three hundred titles and came up with Midnight Man. The next morning I woke up and I just said this word. Something in my head just said, 'This is the title'. You could visualise 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'[1]

Film work[edit]

In 1986 Temperton was nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar for "Miss Celie's Blues," which he cowrote with Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie for The Color Purple (1985). (Richie won the award for "Say You, Say Me," from White Nights.) Later that year the buddy-cop action-comedy Running Scared was released, featuring five new songs written by Temperton, including "Sweet Freedom," performed by Michael McDonald, and "Man Size Love," performed by Klymaxx;[7] Temperton also composed the film's score.

Songwriting credits[edit]

Temperton wrote or cowrote the following songs:[8][9]

Production credits[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Michael Jackson: How Rod Temperton invented Thriller". The Daily Telegraph. 26 June 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  2. ^ 'The Invisible Man' The Rod Temperton Story narrated by Paul Gambaccini, BBC Radio 2
  3. ^ 'The Invisible Man' BBC Radio 2 profile
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 248. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  5. ^ The Invisible Man Radio 2 profile, presented by Paul Gambaccini
  6. ^ Hoffmann, Christian. "Komponist von Michael Jackson war Wormser", Mannheimer Morgen, 18 July 2009, p. 30
  7. ^ "Various – Running Scared (Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Discogs. Retrieved 11 June 2016. 
  8. ^ allmusic ((( Rod Temperton > Songs > Songs Composed By )))
  9. ^ List of songs written by Temperton ASCAP
  10. ^ Qwest

External links[edit]