Karaoke Inventor Dies at 100

(StraightNews.org) – Karaoke inventor Shigeichi Negishi has died at the age of 100. The 50-year-old party favorite began when Mr. Negishi produced the “Sparko Box,” a device that provided automated lyrics with backup music, allowing people to sing along. He created the appliance while employed as an engineer at a Tokyo electronics company, where he was reportedly frequently heard performing songs with colleagues. The inventor created the Sparko Box after co-workers mocked his singing prowess, and he decided he would sound better with a backing track.

Negishi’s daughter, Atsumi Takano, said her father died peacefully on January 26, but the family waited months to announce his death to give themselves time to grieve. Ms. Takano said he was incredibly proud of his invention, which evolved “into a culture of having fun through song around the world.”

Despite its global success, Mr. Negishi only sold around 8,000 devices due to patent difficulties. His family still has possession of the original Sparko Box, the only remaining one in the world.

Shigeichi Negishi was born in Tokyo in 1923 to a mother who ran a tobacco store and a civil servant father. Known as a studious child, he was an expert calligrapher and studied economics at Hosei University in the Japanese capital before being drafted to serve in the Second World War. Following Japan’s defeat, Negishi spent two years as a prisoner of war in Singapore and was released in 1947, when he gained employment at Olympus Cameras. From there, he founded a consumer electronics company, Nichiden Kogyo, in 1956.

Karaoke went on to become a globally popular entertainment phenomenon, and the first world championships took place in Finland in 2003. The United States currently holds the record for most gold medal wins, and Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean is the world’s most preferred karaoke song.

The largest ever karaoke event took place in Bristol, Tennessee, in 2009 when 160,000 people collectively performed the Garth Brooks hit Friends in Low Places.

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