Ikutaro Kakehashi: Japanese music legend, 808 creator dies

  • 02/04/2017
The 808 drum machine (Wikipedia)
The 808 drum machine (Wikipedia)

Ikutaro Kakehashi, the Japanese engineer behind the classic 808 and Ace Tone drum machines, has died.

In the early 1960s Kakehashi founded Ace Tone, which made amplifiers, organs and eventually primitive drum machines, including the Rhythm Ace line.

It was with his next company, Roland, that he found massive success. He founded the company in 1972. It is now one of the biggest manufacturers of musical gear and software, with nearly 3000 employees worldwide.

It was Mr Kakehashi who led the team that developed the 808 drum machine, which at first was a commercial and critical flop - its analogue, electronic beats sounding nothing like the instrument it was meant to be emulating.

The 808 found its place in hip-hop, however, and by the 1990s it was being used by artists as varied as Nine Inch Nails, Madonna and the Beastie Boys. A feature-length documentary on the 808 was released in 2015, with contributors including Gorillaz' Damon Albarn, Pharrell Williams, New Order, Lil Jon and Fatboy Slim.

Songs using the 808 include Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing', Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' and the entirety of Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak album.

Another of Mr Kakehashi's achievements is the development of the MIDI standard in the early 1980s, which is to this day used widely in electronic music production.

His handprints are in Hollywood's Rock Walk, alongside those of Johnny Cash, Alanis Morisette, James Brown and others.

He was 87.