Thriller songwriter Rod Temperton dies of cancer at 66

Rod Temperton death

Rod Temperton, the songwriter behind Michael Jackson's Thriller and Rock With You, has died of cancer at the age of 66, his music publisher has announced.

The Cleethorpes-born songwriter, known as the "invisible man" for the way he shunned the limelight, collaborated with the likes of Anita Baker, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin and the Brothers Johnson.

But he was best known for writing songs for the King of Pop's albums Off The Wall and Thriller, after working with the singer's producer Quincy Jones.

Michael Jackson in the Thriller video

Jon Platt, chairman and chief executive of Warner/Chappell, released a statement saying that it was "the saddest of sad times".

"Rod Temperton, British composer and musician, died last week at the age of 66 in London following a brief aggressive battle with cancer," he said.

"His funeral was private."

He added: "He was often referred to as the Invisible Man. He was the sole writer of multiple successful songs such as Thriller, Off The Wall, Rock With You, Give Me The Night, Sweet Freedom, Always & Forever and Boogie Nights, to name just a few.

"His family is devastated and request total privacy at this, the saddest of sad times."

The songwriter was working in a frozen fish factory in Grimsby when he began his career as a member of the disco band Heatwave.

He penned the 1970s hits Always And Forever and Boogie Nights for the group.

He also penned songs for Karen Carpenter, Donna Summer, Mariah Carey and Mica Paris.

Mariah Carey on stage

He came up with the title for the smash hit song and album Thriller, which went on to sell millions of copies worldwide.

"I... wrote two or three hundred titles and came up with Midnight Man. I woke up the next morning and I said this word, Thriller," he has been quoted as saying.

"Something in my head just said, 'this is the title'. You could visualise it at the top of the Billboard charts, you could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page."

Michael Jackson pictured in 1984

The songwriter is also said to have come up with much of the song in the back of a taxi, on the way to the studio.

Despite his huge success, eventually owning properties in Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, the south of France, Switzerland, Fiji and Kent, he shunned the limelight.

He said of his life: "I watch telly, catch up on the news, and maybe the phone will ring."

The songwriter opened up about his life in a Radio 2 documentary in 2006.

He said his interest in music could have been sparked by the fact that his father put a transistor radio in his cot at night and he would go to sleep listening to Radio Luxembourg.