Rod Temperton was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, on 9 October 1949. He attended De Aston Grammar School, Market Rasen and he formed a group for the school’s music competitions. He was a drummer at this time. On leaving school he started working for Ross Frozen Foods in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. He soon became a full-time musician as a keyboard player, and played in several dance bands. This took him to Worms in Germany. In 1974 he answered an advert in Melody Maker placed by Johnnie Wilder Jr. and as a result became a member of the funk and disco band, Heatwave, which Wilder was putting together at the time. Temperton played Wilder tunes he had been composing. The songs provided material for the album ‘Too hot to handle’ (1976) including ‘Boogie Nights’, which broke the band in Britain and the United States, and the ballad, ‘Always and forever’.
In 1977 Heatwave followed up the success of their first album with their second, Central Heating, Barry Blue again producing, and Temperton behind the majority of the songs. It included ‘The groove line’, another international hit single. In 1978 Temperton decided to concentrate on writing and left Heatwave, though he continued to write for the band.
Temperton’s work attracted the attention of Quincy Jones, and he asked his engineer Bruce Swedien to check out the Heatwave album. In 1979, Temperton was recruited by 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. Temperton also wrote the spoken word section of the song for the actor Vincent Price.
Temperton wrote successfully for other musicians, his hits including ‘Stomp!’ for The Brothers Johnson, George Benson’s ‘Give ne the night’, ‘Baby, come to me’ for Patti Austin and James Ingram and ‘Yah Mo B There’ for Ingram and Michael McDonald.
Later in 1986 the buddy-cop action-comedy Running Scared was released, featuring five new songs written by Temperton, including Kim Wilde’s Say You Really Want Me, which he produced together with Bruce Swedien and Dick Rudolph. Temperton also composed the film’s score.
On 5 October 2016, Temperton’s death was announced after what was described by his music publisher as ‘a brief aggressive battle with cancer’. Temperton had died at the age of 66 in London the previous week and his funeral had already taken place. The exact date of his death was not announced. Temperton is survived by his wife Kathy. They had homes in Los Angeles, the south of France, Fiji, Switzerland and Kent in south east England.