London, (AFP): The British songwriter behind Michael Jackson’s icon hit “Thriller”, Rod Temperton, has died at the age of 66, his music publisher announced on Wednesday.
Jon Platt, chairman and chief executive of Warner/Chappell, said Temperton died last week following a “brief aggressive battle with cancer”.
“His family is devastated and request total privacy at this, the saddest of sad times,” Platt said in a statement. A private funeral has already been held.
Temperton is said to have come up with much of “Thriller” in the back of a taxi on the way to the studio.
The 1982 album of the same title smashed a new record in December, becoming the first album to sell more than 30 million copies in the United States. Jackson died aged 50 on June 25, 2009, from a lethal dose of sedatives.
The cast of the musical “Thriller Live” in London’s West End said the theatre lights would be dimmed for five minutes ahead of Wednesday’s performance, in memory of Temperton.
“Thank you for the music. The Thriller Live family salute you,” the cast said.
Musician Mark Ronson wrote a tribute to the songwriter on Twitter: “so devastated to hear that Rod Temperton has passed away. a wonderful man & one of my favourite songwriters ever. thank you for the magic x”.
Temperton was described on social media as “a great British songwriter” by former Culture Club singer Boy George, while rapper LL Cool J said “we have lost a true genius”.
Born in Cleethorpes, northern England, Temperton also wrote Jackson’s “Rock With You” track. He collaborated with musicians including Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey.
He launched his music career after working in a frozen fish factory, joining the disco band “Heatwave” and writing the group’s hit song “Boogie Nights”.