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5 October 2016

The Invisible Man: “Thriller” songwriter Rod Temperton has died aged 66

“He’s like an invisible shadow over the whole music business, the whole culture.”

By New Statesman

British songwriter Rod Temperton has died aged 66, music publishers Warner/Chappell have confirmed.

Chairman Jon Platt said in a statement that Temperton, best known for writing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, suffered “a brief, aggressive battle with cancer,” and passed away last week.

Temperton was from the seaside town of Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire, and has written an impressive list of songs – including Jackson’s “Off The Wall” and “Rock With You”, after Quincy Jones recruited him to write for the King of Pop.

He also wrote George Benson’s “Give Me The Night”, Michael McDonald’s “Sweet Freedom”, and  Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights” and “Always & Forever”, the disco group he came to prominence in as a moustachioed keyboard player in the mid Seventies. He has written songs for stars including Donna Summer, Mariah Carey and Mica Paris.

It’s speculated that Temperton had a net worth of over $125 million. In 2009, the Telegraph reported that he lived on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, alongside actors like  George Clooney, and Jack Nicholson, with additional homes in the South of France, Switzerland, Fiji, and Kent.

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But despite the extent of his success, Temperton kept a famously low profile that led him to be nicknamed “The Invisible Man”. Few photos of him exist online, and public appearances have been extremely few and far between, a far cry from the producers and songwriters of today be it Max Martin, Sia, Greg Kurstin, Calvin Harris or Mark Ronson.

Temperton briefly reappeared in 2006 for BBC Radio 2’s The Invisible Man: The Rod Temperton Storyit reportedly took four years for producers to persuade him to feature in it. In it, we learned about Temperton’s musical childhood, career in Heatwave, and his work with Jackson – who he originally wrote over 300 songs for.

As Patti Austin said at the time, “He’s like an invisible shadow over the whole music business, the whole culture. He’s just interwoven in so many ways that we don’t even know. He’s like the air we breathe – it’s in us, it’s around us, but we don’t even think about it. It’s just there.”