10 essential Rod Temperton penned songs… The establishment of an identity happened to be the ultimate key word by the end of the 70’s. Be it visually with trends applying to social if not political categories, such as brilliantly illustrated on ‘Car Wash’. As musically with the arrival of producers settin’ up a distinctive sound. Not to mention songwriters who heavily contributed crafting a direction to artists depending on their goals. Smokey Robinson, McFadden & Whitehead, Holland/Dozier/Holland… But also Baker-Harris-Young , Gamble & Huff and Norman Whitfield are among the first names coming to mind. With Rod Temperton makin’ no exception…
Born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, on Oct. 09 1949, Rodney Lynn Temperton admitted he was a musician from an early age in a BBC Radio 2 documentary titled ‘The Invisible Man: the Rod Temperton Story’. He’d go to sleep while being a kid, listening to Radio Luxembourg thinking it has been of some influence.
Familiar with the drums, he became a full-time musician, playing keyboards in various Dance bands. By 1974 he answered an advert in Melody Maker placed by Johnnie Wilder, Jr. This got him to become a member of Heatwave, which the latter was putting together at the time.
Temperton played Wilder the songs he’d been composing which all provided material for the band’s 1977 debut-album, ‘Too Hot To Handle’. The impact happened to be immediate with ‘Boogie Nights’ score a #2 in the charts both in the UK and Stateside. A cut soon after followed by ‘Always And Forever’ on a downtempo tip. With other gems such as ‘Too Hot To Handle’ and ‘Ain’t No Half Steppin” turning this album into an essential investment. Meanwhile ‘Groove Line’ confirmed the position of the group as a part of their follow-up album – ‘Central Heating’ – the year after.
Temperton‘s last biggie for the group, which he left inbetween, was ‘Gangsters Of The Groove’ from their 1980 released ‘Candles’ album. And if ever there’d been a good reason for him to leave, it’s because of his writing skills got to the attention of Quincy Jones who hired him to write for various projects he was working on at the time.
The feeling between the two proved to be instant, leading to the release of an impressive list hits of the period. Beginning with Michael Jackson for whom he wrote ‘Rock With You’ and the title track of his ‘Off The Wall’ debut-album back in 1979. But also ‘Baby Be Mine’, ‘The Lady In My Life’ and the title cut of his ‘Thriller’ album, 3 years after.
Through Quincy Jones, Temperton also wrote the title cut of Rufus & Chaka Khan‘s ‘Masterjam’ album in 1979. ‘Love X Love’ and ‘Give Me The Night’ for George Benson (1980). ‘Stomp’ for The Brothers Johnson, that same year. He then came up with the memorable ‘Razzmatazz’ for Quincy Jones in 1981 eventually contributing to his ‘Back On The Block’ album, 9 years after. But also ‘Baby Come To Me’ for Patti Austin and James Ingram in addition to ‘Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)’ for Donna Summer (1982). Then ‘Yah Mo Be There’ for James Ingram & Michael McDonald in 1983.
Elsewhere, Temperton‘s songs could be found in the repertoire of countless artists. From Herbie Hancock to Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills, Mica Paris, Manhattan Transfer and Aretha Franklin among others.
Lesser known is the fact that Rod Temperton wrote songs for Karen Carpenter. Probably because they never saw the light at the time, due to A&M label heads Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss‘s negative response.
They’d been recorded between May 1979 and January 1980. Two of them – ‘Lovelines’ and ‘If We Try’ – got released in 1996, 13 years after her passing, as a part of her eponymous album. And a third one – ‘Midnight (Never Lets You Down)’ – ended up surfacing on Internet years after.
Rod Temperton‘s death was announced on Oct. 05, 2016 after what has been described by Warner/Chappell John Platt as “a brief aggressive battle with cancer”. He had died at the age of 66 in London the previous week and his funeral had already taken place. The exact date of his death hasn’t not been specified…
I suppose all the superlatives have been used in regards to Michael Jackson‘s ‘Thriller’ album and its title cut along with time. Its construction certainly paved the way for what would become Jacko’s trademark during the following years. Be it in terms of production as in terms visual effects which characterized his video films from then. The result got way over the expectations at the time, becoming the biggest selling album of all the times. ‘Thriller’ (the single) didn’t make it as #1 in the charts though only reachin’ the #4 position. As opposed to ‘Rock With You’ from his 1979 ‘Off The Wall’ album, which Temperton and Quincy Jones also happened to respectively write and produce…
The Brothers Johnson saw the light back in 1975 in Los Angeles, CA. They would start as backing musicians for artists such as Billy Preston and Bobby Womack, prior meeting Quincy Jones whom they worked with on his ‘Madness’ album.
This happened to be the beginning of a fruitful collaboration givin’ birth to classics classics such as ‘I’ll Be Good To You’ and ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ (initially sung by Shuggie Otis). Not to mention the aforementioned, taken from their 1980 released ‘Light Up The Night’ album. Quincy Jones using the same collaborators as for Michael Jackson, with the latter for the occasion on backing vocals, along with Rod Temperton on electric piano and Greg Phillinganes on synths…
Rod Temperton, but also sound engineer Bruce Swedien teamin’ up once again on ‘Sweet Freedom’ with former Dobbie Brothers lead singer Michael McDonald. A track taken from the 1986 action/comedy film ‘Running Scared’, directed by Peter Hyams with Gregory Hine on the leading role. This would be McDonald‘s last Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Temperton and Swedien (along with Dick Rudolph) also happened to write and produce ‘Man Size Band’, the opening cut of the album, for Klymaxx.
Patti Austin got to major recognition in 1981 with the release of Quincy Jones‘s ‘The Dude’ album. There, she took the lead vocals on the memorable ‘Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me’ (co-written by Stevie Wonder) and ‘Razzmatazz’. An album followed by the Quincy Jones Presents Patti Austin‘s Every Home Should Have One’ one, as led by the mellow and smooth Rod Temperton written ‘Baby Come To Me’ where she shared the duties with James Ingram.