Rod Temperton, best known as the incredibly talented songwriter behind some of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits including “Thriller,” died in London last week after “a brief aggressive battle with cancer” and was memorialized in a private funeral, according to Jon Platt, Chairman and CEO of Warner/Chappell. Temperton was 66 years old.
Temperton’s career began as keyboardist and principal songwriter of the disco/funk band Heatwave, where he penned their biggest hit, “Boogie Nights.” After leaving Heatwave, Temperton made his living writing songs for prominent R&B acts such as Donna Summer, Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, The Carpenters, Chaka Khan and more.
His biggest success came when he was recruited by Quincy Jones to write songs for Michael Jackson. Temperton wrote three songs for Jackson’s Off the Wall, “Rock with You,” “Off the Wall” and “Burn This Disco Out,” and three more for Thriller, including the beloved title track.
In 1986, Temperton was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song along with Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie for the song “Miss Celie’s Blues,” from The Color Purple.
In a statement, Platt said, “His family is devastated and request total privacy at this, the saddest of sad times.” Artists like The Weeknd, Mark Ronson, Boy George, Chaka Khan and more have taken to social media to express their condolences.
Temperton’s name may not be widely known—he was often referred to as “The Invisible Man” in a nod to his behind-the-scenes contributions—but his body of work is legendary, and will continued to be enjoyed by millions for years to come.