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Michael Jackson's Thriller songwriter has died aged 66

Rod Temperton, the songwriter behind Michael Jackson's Thriller and Rock With You, has died aged 66, his music publisher says.

Temperton died of cancer last week, according to Jon Platt, chairman and chief executive Warner/Chappell.

"His family is devastated and request total privacy at this, the saddest of sad times," said Mr Platt, adding that the funeral was private.

Temperton, also a record producer and keyboard player, began his career as a member of the disco band Heatwave.

For the group, he wrote the 1970s hits Always And Forever and Boogie Nights.

Over the course of a career that spanned decades, he worked with the likes of Anita Baker, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, the Brothers Johnson and Mariah Carey, among others.

He was often referred to as the "Invisible Man", said Mr Platt.

But he was best known for his work with Jackson.

He wrote songs for Off The Wall, the critically acclaimed album from 1979, and later for Thriller, including the title track and its title.

"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 once said.

"Something in my head just said, 'This is the title'. You could visualise it at the top of the Billboard charts."

Thriller, released in 1982, remains the best-selling album of all time. Temperton is said to have come up with most of the title track in the back of a taxi on his way to the studio.

Other highlights include Give Me The Night and Sweet Freedom.

Temperton also received an Oscar nomination with Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones for a song, called Miss Celie's Blues, they co-wrote for the Steven Spielberg movie The Color Purple.

Born in the town of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, Temperton shunned the limelight despite his huge success and properties across the world, including on Mulholland Drive, the Los Angeles street lined with celebrities' mansions.

"I watch telly, catch up on the news, and maybe the phone will ring," he said.

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