Rod Temperton

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Rod Temperton
Screenshot of Rod Temperton, taken from a BBC Television programme, last broadcast on BBC Four
Screenshot of Rod Temperton, taken from a BBC Television programme, last broadcast on BBC Four
Background information
Birth nameRodney Lynn Temperton
Also known asR. Temperton[1]
'The Invisible Man'[2][3]
Born(1949-10-09)9 October 1949
Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England, UK[1][2]
Died25 September 2016(2016-09-25) (aged 66)[4]
London, England, UK[2]
GenresPop, disco, funk, soul
Occupation(s)Songwriter, musician, record producer
InstrumentsKeyboards, vocals
Years active1974–2016
LabelsGTO, Epic, Warner/Chappell
Associated actsHeatwave,
Michael Jackson,
Quincy Jones

Rodney Lynn Temperton (9 October 1949 – 25 September 2016)[4] commonly and professionally known as Rod Temperton,[1][2] and informally known within music circles as 'The Invisible Man',[2][3] was an English songwriter, musician, vocalist, and record producer. He initially made his mark as the keyboardist and main songwriter for the 1970s pop music, disco, and funk band Heatwave, whose hit songs included "Always and Forever", "Boogie Nights",[2] and "The Groove Line",[2] amongst many others.

After being subsequently recruited by record producer Quincy Jones, he wrote several internationally known hit songs performed by Michael Jackson, including "Thriller",[1][2] "Off the Wall",[2] and "Rock with You".[2] He also wrote hit songs for George Benson, including "Give Me the Night"[2] and "Love X Love", along with Patti Austin and James Ingram's United States number one hit "Baby, Come to Me",[2] among many others.

Temperton wrote the soundtrack for the 1986 film Running Scared. He won a Grammy Award in 1990 for his work on Birdland, from Quincy Jones's album Back on the Block.[2]


Early years[edit]

Rodney Lynn Temperton was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire,[2] on 9 October 1949.[5] Interviewed for the BBC Radio 2 documentary 'The Invisible Man: the Rod Temperton Story', Temperton said that he was a musician from an early age: "My father wasn't the kind of person who would 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 Luxembourg, and I think that had an influence."[2][3]

Temperton attended De Aston Grammar School, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire,[6] 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 BBC test card, which was all kinds of music they'd be playing continuously."[7] On leaving school, he started working as a fish filleter for Ross Frozen Foods in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.[5]


Temperton soon became a full-time musician as a keyboard player, and played in several dance bands. This took him to Worms in Germany. In 1974, he answered an advert in Melody Maker for a keyboardist,[2] placed by Johnnie Wilder Jr., and as a result, became a member of the pop, disco, and funk band: Heatwave,[2] 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 Wilder tunes he had been composing: "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",[2] which broke the band in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA), and the ballad "Always and Forever"; both tracks were million-sellers in the USA.[8][9]

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."[3] In 1977, Heatwave followed up the success of its first album with its second, Central Heating, with Barry Blue again producing, and Temperton behind the majority of the songs. It included "The Groove Line",[2] another international hit single. In 1978, Temperton decided to concentrate on writing, and left Heatwave,[2] though he continued to write for the band.[10]

Songs written for Michael Jackson[edit]

Rod 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, also calling Temperton: "the most disciplined pop music composer I've ever met. When he comes to the studio, every musical detail is written down or accounted for in Rod's mind. He never stops until he feels confident that the music we're working on is able to stand on its own."[11] In 1979, Temperton was recruited by Quincy Jones[2] to write for what became Michael Jackson's first solo album in four years, and his first full-fledged solo release for Epic Records, titled Off the Wall. Temperton wrote three songs for the album,[2] including "Rock with You",[2] which became the second US number 1 single from the album.[5]

In the early 1980s, Temperton left Germany and moved to Beverly Hills, California.[12] In 1982, Temperton wrote three songs, including the title track,[1][2] for Jackson's next LP, Thriller, which became the biggest-selling album of all time in the United States, selling 32 million copies.[2] Temperton also wrote the spoken word section of the song for the actor Vincent Price.[13] On coming up with the title "Thriller",[2] 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'.[14]

Other songwriting successes[edit]

Temperton wrote successfully for other musicians, his hits including disco classic "Stomp!" for The Brothers Johnson;[2] George Benson's "Give Me the Night";[2] "Baby, Come to Me"[2] for Patti Austin and James Ingram; "Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)" for Donna Summer;[2] and "Yah Mo B There" for James Ingram and Michael McDonald. He also wrote for Herbie Hancock, The Manhattan Transfer, Mica Paris, Rufus and Chaka Khan,[2] and many others.[13]

Film work[edit]

In 1982, Temperton wrote the music to Someone in the Dark, recorded by Michael Jackson, and produced by Quincy Jones, for the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

In 1986, Temperton was Oscar nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for Miss Celie's Blues (Sister), which he wrote with Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie for The Color Purple film of 1985. (Richie won the award for "Say You, Say Me", from White Nights.) He was also nominated for Best Original Score, along with the 11 other composers, including Jones, who worked on The Color Purple's soundtrack.[2]

Later in 1986, the buddy-cop action-comedy Running Scared was released, featuring five new songs written by Temperton, including "Sweet Freedom",[2] performed by Michael McDonald; and "Man Size Love", performed by Klymaxx.[15] Temperton also composed the film's score.

Personal life and death[edit]

After leaving Heatwave to concentrate on his songwriting, Rod Temperton shunned the celebrity lifestyle, and remained a very private man.[1] Due to his low profile, Temperton was nicknamed 'The Invisible Man'.[2] He died on 25 September 2016 after "a brief aggressive battle with cancer", as quoted by Jon Platt of Warner/Chappell music publishing.[2] His death would be announced a week later on 5 October 2016, with his private funeral having already taken place.[2][4] One of the finest and most fitting epithets to Temperton was written on Twitter by Gilles Peterson, a BBC radio presenter: "Apart from Lennon and McCartney no one from the UK has written more gold plated songs than Sir Rod Temperton... a huge loss. RIP".[2][16]

Temperton is survived by his wife Kathy.[1] They had homes in Los Angeles, the south of France, Fiji, Switzerland, and Kent in southeast England.[13][17]

Songwriting credits[edit]

year song[18] first charted by[18] credited co-writer(s) with Temperton[18] US


other charting
versions,[18] and notes
1977 "Boogie Nights"[2] Heatwave 2 5 2 1992: Sonia, no.30 UK
"Too Hot to Handle" /
"Slip Your Disc to This"
Heatwave 15
1978 "Always and Forever" Heatwave 18 2 9 1985: Nicole, no.66 US R&B
1990: Whistle, no.9 US R&B
1994: Luther Vandross, no.58 US pop, no.16 US R&B, no.20 UK
"The Groove Line"[2] Heatwave 7 3 12 1999: The Blockster, no.18 UK
1979 "Eyeballin'" Heatwave 30
"Razzle Dazzle" Heatwave 43
"Rock with You"[2] Michael Jackson 1 1 7 1996: Quincy Jones, no.74 US R&B
1998: D'Influence, no.30 UK
2006: Michael Jackson, no.15 UK (re-entry)
2009: Michael Jackson, no.54 UK (2nd re-entry)
"Off the Wall"[2] Michael Jackson 10 5 7 2000: Wisdome, no.33 UK
2009: Michael Jackson, no.73 UK (re-entry)
"Burn This Disco Out"[2] Michael Jackson
"Live In Me"[22] Rufus and Chaka Khan[2]
1980 "Stomp!"[2] The Brothers Johnson Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Valerie Johnson 7 1 6 1996: Quincy Jones, no.28 UK
"Light Up the Night" The Brothers Johnson Louis Johnson, George Johnson 16 47
"Give Me the Night"[2] George Benson 4 1 7 1984: Mirage, no.49 UK
1996: Randy Crawford, no.47 US R&B, no.60 UK
"Treasure" The Brothers Johnson 73 36
"Love X Love" George Benson 61 9 10
"Gangsters of the Groove" Heatwave 110 21 19
"Turn Out the Lamplight" George Benson 109 33
"Lovelines" Karen Carpenter from solo album, released 1996
1981 "Jitterbuggin'" Heatwave 34
"Razzamattazz" Quincy Jones 17 11
"Turn On The Action" Quincy Jones
"Do You Love Me?" Patti Austin 24 76
1982 "Gettin' to the Good Part" Herbie Hancock Herbie Hancock 47
"Lettin' It Loose" Heatwave 54
"Lite Me Up" Herbie Hancock 52
"Baby, Come to Me"[2] Patti Austin and James Ingram 1 9 11 1984: Stephanie Winslow, no.42 US country
1997: Alexander O'Neal & Cherrelle, no.56 UK
"Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)" Donna Summer[2] Quincy Jones, Merria Ross 10 4 18
1983 "Thriller"[1][2] Michael Jackson 4 3 10 2007: Michael Jackson, no.57 UK (re-entry)
2008: Michael Jackson, no.35 UK (re-entry)
2009: Michael Jackson, no.12 UK (re-entry)
2010: Michael Jackson, no.68 UK (re-entry)
2011: The Glee Cast, no.38 US, no.23 UK
2011: Michael Jackson, no.79 UK (re-entry)
2012: Michael Jackson, no.49 UK (re-entry)
2013: Michael Jackson, no.42 US, no.49 UK (re-entry)
2014: Michael Jackson, no.35 US (re-entry)
"Baby Be Mine"[2] Michael Jackson
"The Lady In My Life"[2] Michael Jackson
"Spice of Life" The Manhattan Transfer Derek Bramble 40 32 19
"Yah Mo B There" James Ingram and Michael McDonald James Ingram, Michael McDonald, Quincy Jones 19 5 12
1984 "Mystery" The Manhattan Transfer 102 80 1986: Rapture (Anita Baker album)[2]
1986 "Sweet Freedom"[2] Michael McDonald 7 17 12 2002: Safri Duo, no.54 UK
"Man Size Love" Klymaxx 15 43 86
1990 "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" Quincy Jones feat. Al B. Sure!, James Ingram, El DeBarge, Barry White Quincy Jones, Siedah Garrett, El DeBarge 31 1 67
1991 "Givin' In to Love" Patti Austin 55
1993 "Never Do You Wrong" Stephanie Mills Vassal Benford, Ron Spearman, Carol Duboc 33 57
"Two in a Million" Mica Paris 51
1994 "Vibe" (includes a sample of "Love x Love", from Give Me the Night,[2] 1980) Zhané Kier Gist,
Renée Neufville
119 33 67
1995 "Hey Lover" (includes a sample of "The Lady in My Life",[2] from Thriller, 1982) LL Cool J James Todd Smith 3 3 17
"You Put a Move on My Heart" Tamia 98 16 first recorded by Mica Paris
2020 "Turn Down the Sound"[23] Nikki Yanofsky Nikki Yanofsky
"Bubbles" Nikki Yanofsky Nikki Yanofsky

Production credits[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rod Temperton". The TimesTimes Newspapers Limited. 7 October 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb "Rod Temperton: Thriller songwriter dies aged 66". BBC NewsBritish Broadcasting Corporation. 5 October 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Invisible Man: the Rod Temperton story", narrated by Paul Gambaccini, BBC Radio 2, BBC RadioBritish Broadcasting Corporation.
  4. ^ a b c "Find a will: Temperton, Rodney Lynn". HM Government of the United Kingdom. 27 April 2017. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "Rod Temperton, songwriter who wrote Michael Jackson's Thriller – obituary". The TelegraphTelegraph Media Group Limited. 5 October 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  6. ^ "De Aston School news". De Aston Grammar School. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Would 'uke' believe it! The De Aston Michael Jackson with 36 albums". Grimsby Telegraph. 4 April 2016. Retrieved 8 October 2016.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 248. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  9. ^ Paphides, Pete (5 October 2016). "Rod Temperton: the effortless orchestrator of the perfect pop illusion". The Guardian.
  10. ^ "Rod Temperton dead: 'Thriller' songwriter dies aged 66". Huffington Post. 6 October 2016.
  11. ^ "The making of Michael Jackson's Thriller". 1 October 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  12. ^ Hoffmann, Christian (18 July 2009). "Komponist von Michael Jackson war Wormser". Mannheimer Morgen. p. 30.
  13. ^ a b c "Rod Temperton - obituary". The Guardian. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  14. ^ "Michael Jackson: How Rod Temperton invented Thriller". The Daily TelegraphTelegraph Media Group Limited. 26 June 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Various – Running Scared (music from the motion picture soundtrack)". Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  16. ^ Gilles Peterson (5 October 2016). "Gilles Peterson tweet on the death of Rod Temperton". Twitter, Inc. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Obituary - Rod Temperton, songwriter behind Michael Jackson's Thriller and Rock With You". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  18. ^ a b c d "Songs written by Rod Temperton". Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  19. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  20. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research.
  21. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
  22. ^ Chaka Khan (5 October 2016). "Chaka Khan tweet on the death of Rod Temperton". Twitter, Inc. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Nikki Yanofsky releases new album feat. Rod Temperton's last song". Shore Fire Media. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  24. ^ "Running Scared (1986 Original Soundtrack)". Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  25. ^ "Emotional – Jeffrey Osborne". Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  26. ^ "Siedah Garrett – Kiss Of Life". Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  27. ^ "Quincy Jones – Back On The Block". Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  28. ^ "Billboard: single reviews". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 12 October 1991. p. 81. Retrieved 7 October 2016 – via Internet Archive. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  29. ^ "Mica Paris – Whisper A Prayer". Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  30. ^ "Various – We Are The Future: You Are The Answer". Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  31. ^ "Quincy Jones – Q's Jook Joint". Retrieved 8 October 2016.

External links[edit]