Temperton with singer Mica Paris (Photo: Getty Images / David M. Benett)

As reported by the BBC, songwriter Rod Temperton has died, following what a statement from Warner/Chappell Music group calls “a brief aggressive battle with cancer.” Temperton was the writer behind a number of huge hits over the years, most notably Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and the massively popular “Thriller.” Temperton was 66.

Born in England in 1949, Temperton was pretty much destined to be a musician from birth. The BBC quotes him as saying that his father “wasn’t the kind of person who would read you a story before you went off to sleep,” as he’d “put a transistor radio in the crib” instead. Temperton said that he would fall asleep listening to music, and he believed that “somehow that had an influence.” By the ‘70s, Temperton had joined up with a disco band called Heatwave, playing keyboard and writing some of its songs—including “Boogie Nights,” the group’s biggest hit.

Temperton left Heatwave in 1978 to focus on writing, and by then he had been noticed by iconic producer Quincy Jones. Based on the strength of his work with Heatwave, Jones got Temperton a gig writing some songs for Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album. Temperton wrote the title track, as well as “Burn This Disco Out” and the hit “Rock With You.”

In 1982, Temperton returned for Jackson’s Thriller, which would eventually go on to become the best-selling album of all time. A good chunk of its lasting popularity is due to its title track, a funky, immensely dance-able nod to horror shows with one of the most iconic music videos of all time. Temperton wrote “Thriller,” as well as “Baby Be Mine” and “The Lady In My Life.”

A number of artists who knew Temperton or admired his work expressed their condolences on social media:

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