'Thriller' Writer Rod Temperton Dies at 66

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Heatwave photoraphed in Feb. 1976. Left to right: guitarist Eric Johns (front), keyboard player Rod Temperton, singer Keith Wilder, bassist Mario Mantese, drummer Ernest 'Bilbo' Berger and singer Johnnie Wilder, Jr (1949 - 2006). 

Legendary songwriter Rod Temperton, best known for penning such iconic Michael Jackson hits as "Thriller," "Rock With You" and "Off the Wall," died in London last week at age 66 last week after what a spokesperson described as a "brief aggressive battle with cancer." 

Jon Platt, Chairman & CEO of Warner/Chappell, the legendary songwriter's music publisher, announced Temperton's passing, saying there was a private funeral last week and that "his family is devastated and request total privacy at this, the saddest of sad times." The British composer first broke through as a member of the 1970s disco band Heatwave, writing such hits for them as "Always & Forever" and "Boogie Nights." 

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He left the group in 1978 and began working with Quincy Jones on what would become Jackson's solo breakthrough album, 1979's Off the Wall, for which he also wrote the song "Burn This Disco Out." The collaboration continued on what would become Jackson's most iconic work, 1982's Thriller, for which he wrote the title track, as well as "Baby Be Mine"  and "The Lady in My Life." 

He and Jones were nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar in 1986 for the song "Miss Celie's Blues" from The Color Purple and in that same year he penned Michael McDonald's breakout hit "Sweet Freedom" from the Running Scared soundtrack. Temperton, known as "The Invisible Man," also had a long list of songwriting credits that includes tracks penned for George Benson, Patti Austin, The Brothers Johnson, Donna Summer and Herbie Hancock.