Cleethorpes may not be a hot bed of popular culture, but it is the birth place of one of its most successful songwriters in Rodney Lynn Temperton. Better known as Rod, he was born in the town on 9th October 1949. He went onto write or co-write some of the late 70s and early 80s most iconic songs including Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. His death, from an aggressive cancer was reported by his publisher on 5th October. He was 66.
Temperton was exposed to music from an early age and relates that his father would put him to bed listening to Radio Luxembourg rather than reading him stories. Whilst at school, he played drums, but soon switched to keyboards. After a spell as an office worker in a frozen food company in Grimsby, he became a full-time musician, playing in several bands in the UK and Germany.
His first big break came when he replied to an advertisement in Melody Maker placed by Johnny Wilder Jr. Thus he joined the Pop/ Funk/ Soul band Heatwave in 1974. Temperton wrote several tunes that formed the core of the band’s first album ‘Too Hot To Handle’ including the now legendary, Disco anthem ‘Boogie Nights’ and the lovely ballad ‘Always And Forever’. Both were hits, both sold over a million copies.
His contributions to Heatwave’s success and distinctive sound was huge as he wrote further hits in ‘The Groove Line’ from ‘Central Heating’ and ‘Gangsters Of The Groove’ from ‘Candles’ amongst many others. He combined infectious grooves with simple, memorable lyrics, hooks and melodies. A personal favourite from this era is ‘A Star Of The Story’, later covered by George Benson so gorgeously on ‘Give Me The Night’. Never one for the limelight, he left Heatwave in 1978 to pursue the song-writing side of his career, but continued to compose for the band.
Rod’s second and biggest break came when Quincy Jones, having heard his writing and producing talents with Heatwave, invited him to contribute to Michael Jackson’s brilliant ‘Off The Wall’ album. He wrote both the killer smash hit single ‘Rock With You’ and the title track as well as ‘Burn This Disco Out’. Temperton wrote three songs for Jackson’s follow-up, the biggest selling album of all-time, ‘Thriller’ including the massive hit title song and the ballad ‘The Lady In My Life’.
The association with Quincy Jones productions furnished more success, writing or co-writing songs such as those for George Benson (‘Give Me The Night’ and ‘Love X Love’), Rufus (‘Live In Me’), Brothers Johnson (‘Stomp’ and ‘Light Up The Night’), Bob James (‘Sign Of The Times’), Patti Austin (‘Baby Come To Me’), and James Ingram and Michael McDonald (‘Yah Mo B There’) to mention just a few.
He also contributed to Quincy’s own albums, notably ‘The Dude’ including the hit ‘Razzamatazz’ and from ‘Back on The Block’, the title song and ‘The Secret Garden’. He also co- wrote ‘Miss Celie’s Blues’ with Quincy and Lionel Richie for the movie ‘Color Purple’ that was nominated for an Oscar for best original song in 1986. For the movie ‘Running Scared’ from the same year, Rod also wrote ‘Sweet Freedom’ for Michael McDonald, it was the ex Doobie Brothers singer’s last top 10 Billboard hit.
Further collaborations include Herbie Hancock’s ‘Lite Me Up’ (1982) and several songs from Mica Paris’ third album ‘Whisper A Prayer’ (1993). There were many more.
Sales of records that featured Rod Temperton’s writing talents must run in to tens if not hundreds of millions – the Thriller’ album is said to have sold 45 million alone. That achievement must rank the lad from Cleethorpes as one of this country’s most successful songwriters and undoubtedly so from within the Soul music sphere. Rod RIP and thank you for the timeless songs, you are the star of many a story.