Rod Temperton, whose contributions as a songwriter, composer and producer in the post-disco era of R&B in the 1980s, and played a crucial role in Michael Jackson’s classic recordings, passed away after a “brief aggressive battle with cancer.” He was 66 years old.
Much like fellow musician-producer Kashif, who died a week prior, Temperton helped R&B segue out of the disco era and created a musical template that consisted of a swath of orchestral sounds mixed with electro-funk. In addition, he was a phenomenal songwriter, crafting some of the most memorable love ballads that still get radio airplay to this day.
Temperton musical career started in the disco group Heatwave. He wrote all of the songs on the band’s seminal 1976 album, Too Hot to Handle. The LP featured the classic hits “Boogie Nights,” “Grooveline” and the classic ballad, “Always and Forever.”
Of course, Temperton will most likely be best remembered for his work with Michael Jackson. In 1979, Quincy Jones enlisted Temperton to write for Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album. Their musical partnership continued on MJ’s 1982 album Thriller with Temperton penning the title track.
Throughout his stellar career, Temperton has penned songs for such artists as Rufus & Chaka, Quincy Jones, Donna Summer, George Benson, The Brothers Johnson, Patti Austin, James Ingram, Bob James, Anita Baker, Herbie Hancock and many others.
In memory of this iconic songwriter-producer, we present the 10 Best Rod Temperton songs that he has written and/or produced, in no particular order, because all of them are classic material.
Rod Temperton was an important figure in R&B and soul music. He will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.
After leaving Heatwave, Temperton starting penning songs for other artists. Rufus & Chaka’s “Masterjam” was one of his earlier works. The buoyant funk song featured the powerful vocals of Chaka Khan. Again, Temperton’s carefree lyrics of dancing and having fun make this another classic gem of the disco era.
“Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)”
The Queen of Disco Donna Summer enlisted the songwriting help of Rod Temperton for her funky 1982 single, “Love Is in Control.” Initially, the song represented Summer’s big comeback after the disco era ended. But it wasn’t until a year later when the late singer released “She Works Hard for the Money” that Summer had her true comeback hit.
Rod Temperton continued his songwriting magic for Michael MacDonald (following their successful “Yah Mo Be There,” a popular 1983 duet with MacDonald and James Ingram) with this hit from the forgettable Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines comedy Running Scared. The infectious synth-driven R&B sound keeps everything in groove, and the song has a staying power that far outlasted the movie’s.
“You Put A Move On My Heart”
During Rod Temperton’s career, he maintained a fruitful and lasting musical partnership with Quincy Jones. The two worked brilliantly together on two of Michael Jackson’s classic albums, Off the Wall and Thriller and on Jones’ solo projects. One of Temperton’s finest ballads was this beautiful tune that became a 1995 hit for Canadian singer Tamia when it was featured on Quincy’s album Q’s Jook Joint.
We begin this list with the song that started Rod Temperton’s career. The musician wrote Heatwave’s debut single, “Boogie Nights,” and all of the songs on Heatwave’s seminal 1976 album, Too Hot Too Handle. In the video, that’s Temperton on the organ. While the lyrics were slick and fun, it was brothers Johnnie and Keith Wilder’s vocals that gave the song its anthemic appeal.
“Give Me the Night”
George Benson’s “Give Me the Night” was released in the summer 1980 and became a chart-topping smash on both the Billboard R&B and Disco Songs charts. Temperton wrote the song, which has become a dance floor classic with its carefree lyrics of dancing, romance and fun after dark.
If there’s any song that would get your foot tapping, it’s The Brothers Johnson’s track “Stomp!” Produced by Quincy Jones, it’s another post-disco funk jam that’s tailor-made for the dance floor. Again, while the orchestral sounds, synths and guitar playing makes this an anthemic party jam, its Temperton’s penned lyrics that give the song its identity.
“Baby Come to Me”
Rod Temperton may be known for bringing the funk, but he was gifted songwriter when it came to penning love songs. Patti Austin and James Ingram’s “Baby Come to Me” is one of those sumptuous ballads that never gets old. While the music is phenomenal (courtesy of Quincy Jones), it’s the lyrics that gives the song its identity.
“Always and Forever”
Arguably, Rod Temperton wrote one of the greatest love songs in the history of R&B and soul music. Heatwave’s “Always and Forever” will always be a mainstay on Quiet Storm radio and the go-to song at June weddings. Johnnie Walker Jr.’s piercing falsetto helped bring out Temperton’s romanticizing lyrics of love and devotion. It’s the ultimate love song that continues to reward your ears after numerous replays.
“Rock With You”
Temperton was the man behind so many classic MJ tracks, but his finest moment (arguably) is this classic smooth groove from Off the Wall. With it’s laid-back rhythm and soaring melody, it became one of Michael Jackson’s signature songs and a standout moment for the hitmaking songwriter.