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IKUTARO KAKEHASHI,
1930-2017

Ikutaro Kakehashi, the Roland Corp. founder who created the TR-808 drum machine that had a major impact on percussion sounds in pop music in the 1980s, died Saturday in Japan. He was 87.

Known as the 808, Roland claims it has been used on more hits than any other drum machine. Kanye West named his album 808s and Heartbreak for the machine, which has been used on tracks by Michael Jackson, Prince, Talking Heads, Kraftwerk and countless hip-hop acts. It continues to be heard on R&B, pop and electronic dance music records.

Marvin Gaye was one of the first artists to embrace the machine, which he used to great effect on  “Sexual Healing.”

Kakehashi, who built his first drum machine in 1964, started Roland in 1972, building hundreds of electronic instruments and audio devices. Chief among its creations was MIDI, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface that connects electronic instruments, which he developed with Sequential CircuitsDave Smith. Kakehashi and Smith received a Technical Grammy Award in 2013 for their work on MIDI.

The 808 was produced for three years, starting in 1980. It was an easy-to-use, portable device that made artificial percussion sounds. Thanks to a defective transistor in the unit, it could create a booming bass drum sound that could rattle windows.

The unit was replaced by the TR-909, which included a MIDI control.  Roland also introduced the first synthesizer built in Japan, the SH-1000 in 1973, and the Jupiter and Juno synthesizers.

Kakehashi was the chief executive until 2013 when he founded the audio and video electronics company, ATV Corp. His final invention project at ATV was a hand percussion instrument, the aFrame.

 

 

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