Shigeichi Negishi, Inventor of Karaoke, Dead at 100

Shigeichi Negishi, Visionary Inventor of Karaoke, Passes Away at 100

Shigeichi Negishi, the visionary behind the modern karaoke machine, has passed away at the age of 100.

Negishi, a respected figure in the Japanese business world, succumbed to injuries from a fall on January 26, as revealed by his daughter Atsumi Takano, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Matt Alt, a reporter for WSJ, was among the first to announce Negishi’s passing on X (previously known as Twitter). He shared that Negishi’s family had entrusted him with the task of making the news public.

Alt paid tribute to Negishi, saying, “Farewell to another legend: Shigeichi Negishi, inventor of karaoke, has died age 100.” He reflected on his 2018 interview with Negishi, noting how the invention sparked controversy among performers who feared for their livelihoods. This, Alt remarked, mirrors today’s discussions on AI and its effects on artists.

Negishi’s journey to inventing the karaoke machine began in his 40s while working at Nichiden Kogyo, a tech company. The idea was sparked by a light-hearted comment from an employee about Negishi’s singing abilities, leading him to create the first “Sparko Box” in 1967.

Recalling the moment, Negishi shared in his 2018 interview with Alt how an engineer’s playful critique led him to innovate. He combined a microphone, speaker, and tape deck, using an 8-track tape to play “Mujo no Yume” by Yoshio Kodama.

The “Sparko Box,” named for its later design featuring flashing lights, was first tested at home with Negishi’s family. His daughter remembers the excitement of hearing their voices through the speaker.

Despite Daisuke Inoue being widely recognized as the karaoke inventor, Negishi’s creation predates Inoue’s version, which emerged independently in 1971, NPR reports.

Negishi then embarked on a mission to market the Sparko Boxes, targeting bars, hotels, and restaurants. By the end of his career, he had sold approximately 8,000 units, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Choosing not to patent his invention due to the complex patenting process in Japan during the 1960s, Negishi remained unbothered by this decision. His daughter, Takano, shared that Negishi took great pride in seeing his invention become a global phenomenon, bringing joy through music.

Negishi’s legacy is carried on by his three children, five grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.