Unless you’re deep into the provenance of songs, you may not have known that “Thriller” was not written by Michael Jackson. The man behind the track was a British songwriter named Rod Temperton.
When he submitted the song to Jacko and producer Quincy Jones, he called it “Starlight” and sometimes “Starlight Sun” and even “Give Me Some Starlight,” telling them that it was inspired by an old Jacksons song called “This Place Hotel.” Jackson loved the idea but asked for a different title because he wanted the song to have a greater appeal to kids. He came up with “Thriller,” which then also became the title. The title of the biggest-selling album of all time, no less.
This was not Temperton’s first dance at the Jacko rodeo. He was behind “Rock with You,” “Off the Wall” and several others. In other words, he didn’t walk in cold with this weird zombie song. Temperton’s resume also included songs for George Benson, Donna Summer, James Ingram, Michael McDonald, Aretha Franklin and dozens more. He made gazillions yet almost no one knew who he was. His nickname was “The Invisible Man.”
Temperton died this week following a short battle with cancer. He was 66. Further details here.