International funk and disco band Heatwave, February 1976. Left to right: guitarist Eric Johns (front), keyboard player Rod T
Michael Putland

Rod Temperton, the man behind some of Michael Jackson's early hits, has died at the age of 66, the BBC reports. He passed away in London last week after "a brief aggressive battle with cancer," Jon Platt of Warner/Chappell said in a statement. “His family is devastated and request total privacy at this, the saddest of sad times.”

The songwriter and producer connected with Michael Jackson after grabbing the attention of Quincy Jones in the late 1970s. Temperton collaborated with the late icon for several classics in the beginning stage of his solo career. Their work together included Off the Wall's "Rock with You," "Off the Wall" and "Burn This Disco Out," as well as Thriller's title track, "Baby Be Mine" and "The Lady in My Life."

Temperton got his start with the funk group Heatwave, best known for 1997's "Boogie Nights" (which he also wrote). Throughout his career, he worked alongside George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Donna Summer and Aretha Franklin. The musician scored a nomination for Best Original Song for "Miss Celie's Blues" at the 1986 Oscars, which he co-wrote with Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie for The Color Purple.

Celebrities and musicians like Nile RodgersThe WeekndMark Ronson and Chaka Khan all paid their respects to Temperton on Twitter:

Below, watch a Fuse interview where T-PainMichelle WilliamsSaves the Day and more remember Michael Jackson: