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Word came down today that Rod Temperton who penned the hit song “Thriller” for Michael Jackson has passed away at 66 after a brief battle with a very aggressive cancer.

Temperton got his big break when he joined the band, Heatwave, in the 1970s and went on to pen some of their greatest hits including “Boogie NIghts” and “Always and Forever”.

By the time he left the band in 1978, he had caught the attention of A-list music producer, Quincy Jones, who asked him to put together some songs for a brand new Michael Jackson LP.  The album was Off the Wall, and three of his songs made the final cut.  Naturally, when Jackson was set to record his next album, Jones contacted Temperton once again, and it was at this point that Temperton wrote what would become the most iconic song of his career.

“Thriller” burst onto the scene and quickly became one of Michael Jackson’s go to songs.  Coupled with an imaginative, mini-movie music video featuring dancing zombies and Vincent Price’s eerie rap narration, “Thriller” took on a life of its own.  You’d be hard pressed to find a Halloween party that doesn’t feature the song prominently in the DJ mix.

Temperton went on to win a Grammy in 1990 for his work with Quincy Jones on his album Back to the Block and was also nominated for an Oscar for his work on the score for the film The Color Purple.

Outside of his work in music, Temperton lived a very quiet life, staying out of the spotlight at his home in his native England.

One thing is certain, that moment when “Thriller” comes on at the Halloween party will be just a little bittersweet this year.

RIP Rod Temperton.  You will be missed.