Dominion of New York

Art & Entertainment

June 26, 2012

The Song that Became Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”

More articles by »
Written by: Kelly Virella


he song that gave the world’s best selling album its title almost didn’t happen. The man who wrote “Thriller” — songwriter Rod Temperton — originally called it “Starlight” and gave it completely different lyrics. The original song was not about zombies, but about being courageous and independent in the face of, dare I say, haters. The song paid homage to 70s themes disco themes such as peace, love, and soul.

Here’s what Temperton told the British newspaper the Telegraph in a 2007 interview about “Thriller.”

Originally, when I did my Thriller demo, I called it Starlight. Quincy said to me, ‘You managed to come up with a title for the last album, see what you can do for this album.’ I said, ‘Oh great,’ so I went back to the hotel, wrote two or three hundred titles, and came up with the title ‘Midnight Man’. The next morning, I woke up, and I just said this word… Something in my head just said, this is the title. You could visualise it on the top of the Billboard charts. You could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page as ‘Thriller’.

Here’s an audio clip of “Starlight” and here are the lyrics. How would you rate the song, especially the lyrics?

About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


Melissa Harris Perry. Photo courtesy of MSNBC.