5 Things You Didn’t Know About Rod Temperton
By Matthew Allen
To try to mention the catalog of Rod Temperton, the prolific songwriter who passed away last week at 66, would be a futile and extensive exercise. The Grammy-winning composer’s credits includes legendary tracks: “Always & Forever,” “Thriller,” “Rock With You,” “Give Me The Night,” “Stomp,” “Baby Come To Me,” “Ya Mo Be There,” “The Secret Garden,” and countless more. However, it cannot be overstated that his reach went far beyond pop and R&B. He scored films like The Color Purple and wrote for jazz artists like Bob James. So, rather than wax poetic about every hit record he’s penned, or to simply say he was more than just MJ’s songwriter, we have for you five things about Rod Temperton that you may not have known:
1) Rod did not like writing lyrics
Some of pop and R&B music’s most sincere phrases came from the pen of Rod Temperton. “Darling, let me hold you/warm you in my arms and melt your fears away (“Baby Be Mine”);” “When the world seems like a lonely place/I’ve got a dream that won’t leave a trace of the blues, I just dream of you (“You Put a Move On My Heart”).” Despite this wonderful world, Rod admitted that lyrics were something he didn’t enjoy. “I actually hate writing lyrics,” he stated in the book, Q on Producing, “so I leave that part until as late as I possible can.” Hard to believe that guy who wrote the words to “Baby Come to Me” and “Always and Forever” had such a bemused experience coming with the them.
2) Rod was only going to write one song only for Michael Jackson
In 1979, Rod received a phone call in New York from Los Angeles. It was Quincy Jones, asking him to write songs for Michael Jackson‘s still untitled solo project. Temperton was knee deep with Heatwave and their next album. Pressed for time, he wrote three songs so that Jones and Jackson would pick the best one. After completing the recordings, Jones told Rod he was going to add ALL THREE songs to the 10 track album. Those songs were “Rock with You,” “Burn this Disco Out,” and the title track, “Off the Wall.”
3) Rod wrote an album for Herbie Hancock
Ever since the early 1970’s, pianist Herbie Hancock had longed to make a straight ahead dance record, but his jazz sensibilities kept getting in the way – although to miraculous affect. In the latter end of the decade into the 1980’s he got closer and closer until he finally he tapped Rod to write songs for Lite Me Up! in 1982. Of the eight songs, Rod wrote six slick yet dense jams fit for a dance floor. Songs like “The Bomb” and the title track stood toe-to-toe with some of the best material he gave to folks like The Brothers Johnson.
4) Thriller closer, “The Lady in My Life,” almost didn’t make the album cut
The hurricane that came to be Michael Jackson‘s Thriller was recorded in a two month period. Halfway through, nine songs were selected and recorded. Rod, MJ, Quincy and engineer Bruce Swedien took pause to examine. Songs like “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” were giving the album an edgy sound that some of the other tracks were not matching up with. Ultimately, four songs were removed and replaced with “Human Nature” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” and “Beat It.” One the new songs was a slow burning ballad Rod wrote called “The Lady in My Life.” Had that song, and the others, not been ultimately included, that drastically alters music history as we know it.
5) Rod co-wrote the theme of The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Rod had become acquainted with Oprah Winfrey before she became the multi-media mogul she is today during the production of the film The Color Purple. He’d gotten two Oscar nominations for scoring the film that was Winfrey’s stellar acting debut in 1985. The following year, her legendary talk show began. The iconic theme song most associated with the program, “Oprah’s Theme” was composed by Temperton, with Quincy Jones, and played from 1989 to 1993. Once again, another song that got stuck in your head, written by Rod.
Matthew Allen is a Brooklyn-based music journalist and television producer. In addition to soulhead, his work can be found on EBONY, JET and Wax Poetics Magazines. To keep up with his work, follow him on Twitter and visit his blog, The Well-Dressed Headphone Addict. Check out some of his work for soulhead.