The First Time I Heard…Rod Temperton



Rod Temperton

British composer and musician Rod Temperton, passed away last month at age 66 in London. He was the first songwriter I knew by name that wasn’t also an artist during my childhood. This is because I was absolutely obsessed with liner notes as a kid. I spent countless Saturday afternoons, pouring over Michael Jackson and George Benson records recognizing his name on my most favorite songs. Now of course I knew Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Ashford and Simpson. But this Rod Temperton guy? I couldn’t put a face or a voice with this name and I’m willing to bet you couldn’t either.  His ability to keep his personal life out of the limelight is what made Rod Temperton known as “The Invisible Man” throughout the music world.

Rod Temperton had one of the most understated personas for someone with such a vast and important body of work. His catalog boasts some of the greatest songs of our time ranging from the funkiest of jams like The Brothers Johnson’s “Stomp” to sensuous love ballads like Patti Austin and James Ingram’s “Baby Come to Me”. He began his career as a songwriter and keyboardist in Heatwave and wrote their biggest hits including “Groove Line”, “Boogie Nights” and the romantic classic “Always and Forever”.



It was while playing in Heatwave that he caught the attention of Quincy Jones who enlisted him to work on his album The Dude and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. After churning out hits like “Rock With You” and “Off the Wall” for Jackson, Jones also had him contribute to what is arguably the best pop album of all time, Thriller. Temperton wrote the title hit song “Thriller” along with “Baby Be Mine” (my personal favorite) and the album’s closing song “Lady In My Life”.

Although he is best known for his work with Michael Jackson, Temperton also worked with greats like Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. His extensive discography even includes movie soundtracks like Michael McDonald’s “Sweet Freedom” for the movie Running Scared and “Miss Celie’s Blues” for The Color Purple movie soundtrack.


Rod and Quincy Jones

I never knew as a child that one day my love for music history would one day bring me opportunities to interview some of the greatest composers of our time. Unfortunately, I will never get the chance to thank Rod Temperton for his contributions and talk to him about his love of music. I’m saddened that we weren’t able to honor him in the way that he deserved but I definitely respect him for living his life the way he chose: As The Invisible Man who let his music speak for itself; and it will, always and forever.




Check out my favorite Rod Temperton jams on my Spotify playlist


Toya Haynes

Toya Haynes is a Philadelphia-area based writer who calls Music City her second home. Within the Nashville community, she is best known for her Kid Electric Concerts series which unites local musicians to pay tribute to iconic soul/R&B albums for local charities. The series has included tributes to albums by Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, and D’Angelo.

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