Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of pioneering electronic instrument company Roland, has died aged 87.
Kakehashi’s influence on both the development of electronic music and the pop charts is enduring. Following the founding of Roland in the 1970s, Kakehashi—an accomplished engineer—set his sights on developing a sophisticated electronic drum machine, which culminated with the release of iconic Roland TR-808 in 1980.
Unlike its contemporaries, which used recorded audio samples to help create drum sounds, the TR-808 was an entirely analogue instrument that used transistors to generate its sounds. While a commercial and critical flop on release, the TR-808 gained mythic status and quickly became the go-to drum machine for the nascent electronic dance and hip-hop scenes of the ’80s.
Chances are, unless you’ve completely ignored popular music over the past three decades, you will have heard the sound of a TR-808—be it in the laid back hand-claps of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing or the opening kick drum salvo of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody. It’s also there in the industrial crunch of Nine Inch Nails, the electro-pop of The Human League, and the big beat of Fatboy Slim.
Groups have named themselves after TR-808—think 808 State—while even Kanye West saw fit to name his hugely influential album 808s & Heartbreak after it.
Submitted by: Arnfried Walbrecht