Rod Temperton

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Rod Temperton
Composer, Musician
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Rodney Lynn "Rod" Temperton (9 October 1947 – September/October 2016) was an English songwriter, record producer, and musician from Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England. He initially made his mark as the keyboardist and main songwriter for the R&B funk/disco band Heatwave before writing several internationally known songs performed by Michael Jackson, including mega-hit "Thriller" as well as "Off the Wall", "Rock with You," and numerous others. His death from cancer was reported by his publisher on 5 October 2016.

Early years

Rodney Temperton was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire on 9 October 1947. He 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 Luxembourg and I think that had an influence". 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, Lincolnshire.


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. 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.

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". 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

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. 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'[2]

Film work

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;[8] Temperton also composed the film's score.

Songwriting credits

Temperton wrote or cowrote the following songs:

  • Heatwave: "Boogie Nights," "Always and Forever," and "Ain't No Half Steppin'," from Too Hot to Handle, 1976; "The Groove Line" and "The Star of a Story" (covered by George Benson on Give Me the Night, 1980), from Central Heating, 1977; "Razzle Dazzle" and "Eyeballin'," from Hot Property, 1979; "Gangsters of the Groove" and "Jitterbuggin'," from Candles, 1980; "Lettin' It Loose," from Current, 1982; and more
  • Michael Jackson: "Rock with You", "Off the Wall," and "Burn This Disco Out," from Off the Wall, 1979; "Baby Be Mine," "Thriller," and "The Lady in My Life," from Thriller, 1982; "Someone in the Dark," from the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial audiobook/soundtrack album, 1982; and "Hot Street," an outtake from Thriller
  • Rufus: "Masterjam" and "Live in Me," from Masterjam, 1979
  • The Brothers Johnson: "Stomp!," "Light Up the Night," "You Make Me Wanna Wiggle," "Treasure," "All About the Heaven," "Closer to the One That You Love," and "Celebrations," from Light Up the Night, 1980
  • George Benson: "Love x Love," "Turn Out the Lamplight," and "Give Me the Night", from Give Me the Night, 1980; "Family Reunion," from Songs and Stories, 2009
  • Patti Austin: "Do You Love Me?," "Love Me to Death," "The Genie," and "Baby, Come to Me" (with James Ingram), from Every Home Should Have One, 1981
  • Bob James: "Sign of the Times," "The Steamin' Feelin'," and "Hypnotique," from Sign of the Times, 1981
  • Herbie Hancock: "Lite Me Up!," "The Bomb," "Gettin' to the Good Part," "The Fun Tracks," "Motor Mouth," and "Give It All Your Heart," from Lite Me Up, 1982
  • Donna Summer: "Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)," "Livin' in America," and "Love Is Just a Breath Away," from Donna Summer, 1982
  • The Manhattan Transfer: "The Spice of Life" and "Mystery" (covered by Anita Baker on Rapture), from Bodies and Souls, 1983
  • Mica Paris: "You Put a Move on My Heart," "Love Keeps Coming Back," "We Were Made for Love," and "Two in a Million," from Whisper a Prayer, 1993
  • Siedah Garrett: "Grooverre of Midnight" (originally a demo for Michael Jackson's Bad), "Baby's Got It Bad" (a rewrite of "Got the Hots," an outtake from Thriller credited to Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones on the Japanese edition of the album's 25th-anniversary reissue), and "Nobody Does Me," from Kiss of Life, 1988
  • Quincy Jones: "The Dude," "Razzamatazz," "Somethin' Special," and "Turn On the Action," from The Dude, 1981; "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" and "Back on the Block," from Back on the Block, 1989; "Slow Jams," from Q's Jook Joint, 1995, which also features covers of "Rock with You," "Stomp!," and "You Put a Move on My Heart"
  • James Ingram: "One More Rhythm"
  • James Ingram and Michael McDonald: "Yah Mo B There"
  • Michael McDonald: "Sweet Freedom"
  • Klymaxx: "Man Size Love"
  • Jeffrey Osborne: "We Belong to Love" (also produced by Temperton)
  • Aretha Franklin: "Livin' in the Streets"
  • Javaroo: "Change It Up"
  • Second Image: "Lights Out"
  • Stephanie Mills: "Time of Your Life," "Hold On to Midnight"
  • Karen Carpenter: "Lovelines," "If We Try", from Lovelines, 1989, and Karen Carpenter, 1996
  • Wayne Hernandez: "Dancin' on the Edge," "Let Me Call You Angel," "Fazed Out"
  • Tori White: "Make It Home"
  • Lââm: "Fais de Moi Ce Que Tu Veux", "Love's in the House Tonight"
  • Mýa: "Man in My Life" (cover of Michael Jackson's "The Lady in My Life")
  • LL Cool J featuring Boyz II Men: "Hey Lover" (listed as cowriter due to sample of Michael Jackson's "The Lady in My Life")
  • Angie Stone: "Lovers' Ghetto" (listed as cowriter due to interpolation of "The Lady in My Life")
  • C+C Music Factory: "Share That Beat of Love" (listed as cowriter due to interpolation of "Rock with You")
  • Mariah Carey: "I'm That Chick" (listed as cowriter due to sample of Jackson's "Off the Wall")
  • Various Artists: "We Are the Future"

Production credits

  • The Running Scared soundtrack album (1986, with Dick Rudolph and Bruce Swedien), featuring Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom," Klymaxx's "Man Size Love," and Kim Wilde's "Say You Really Want Me"
  • Jeffrey Osborne: "We Belong to Love" (on Emotional, 1986)
  • Quincy Jones: "I'll Be Good to You", "The Secret Garden," and "I Don't Go for That" (on Back on the Block, 1989); "Stomp" (on Q's Jook Joint, 1995)
  • Patti Austin: "Givin' In to Love" (on Carry On, 1991)



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