Rod Temperton Dies at 66: Hear 'Thriller' and 5 Other Songs That Cement His Legacy

Rod Temperton, the British songwriter and keyboardist behind hits like "Thriller" and "Rock with You," passed away this week at the age of 66.

Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty

Rod Temperton, perhaps best known for penning Michael Jackson’s iconic track “Thriller” — died at 66 last week after a battle with cancer. Musicians quickly flocked to social media to share their sorrow over the loss of the talented songwriter and keyboardist with a decades-spanning career.

That said, Temperton was hardly a household name in the manner of other professional songwriters like Dr. Luke or Diane Warren. But his contributions to pop music are wide-ranging and catchy as hell. Here are handful of songs you’ll likely recognize, even if you didn’t know Temperton was the man behind them.

“Boogie Nights” by Heatwave (1976)

Temperton played keys in Heatwave and was the group’s principal songwriter. “Boogie Nights” was the group’s debut single and was a huge international hit upon its release in 1976.

“Always and Forever” by Heatwave (1977)

He also wrote the ballad “Always and Forever,” another million-seller in the U.S.

“The Grooveline” by Heatwave (1978)

Temperton left Heatwave in 1978, though not before contributing “The Groove Line” and other songs to their second full-length album, Central Heating.

“Rock With You” by Michael Jackson (1979)

Following his departure from Heatwave, Temperton found himself an amazing new gig. Quincy Jones, impressed the songs Temperton wrote for his former band, hired him to write for Michael Jackson’s first solo album in four years, Off the Wall. Among the hits Temperton contributed was “Rock with You,” which became the second No. 1 single from the album.

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson (1983)

Then he wrote “Thriller.” Yeah, we don’t really need to tell you anything more about “Thriller,” right?

“Miss Celie’s Blues” by Tata Vega (1985)

Temperton continued his writing career, churning out songs for jazz artists looking to cross over (like Herbie Hancock and George Benson) and soul divas like Aretha Franklin and Donna Summer. His partnership with Quincy Jones continued for years, and their contribution to the soundtrack of The Color Purple, “Miss Celie’s Blues” (cowritten with Lionel Richie), saw them nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Temperton also wrote “Ya Mo B There.” Cheesy? Absolutely. But good luck getting that hook out of your head once it … be there. Yes, even “Yah Mo Be There” is a testament to Temperton’s genius.

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