Sometimes there are people who are so clever or so unworldly that they do not recognise the importance or potential of what they have done. Daisuke is one of those people and for this reason is a worthy inductee into our Hall of Fame.
Personally, I hate karaoke and will run a country mile from any establishment that is advertising a karaoke session. The prospect of being in the same enclosed space as some inebriated people who cannot miss the opportunity to belt out out of key and out of time some hit song fills me with dread. But there is no denying that it is a popular phenomenon and it is all down to Daisuke.
Our hero was born in Osaka on May 10th 1940 and started playing the drums at school because it seemed the easiest instrument to play – cue old joke, what do you call someone who hangs around musicians? A drummer. He wasn’t very proficient but got gigs in bars in Kobe accompanying businessmen who wanted to sing to a crowd. Because he couldn’t read music, Inoue had to follow the singers and so his off-beat drumming style proved popular – with them at least.
In 1971 he was asked to accompany a businessman on tour but couldn’t make it but gave the man a tape of his playing as accompaniment. And so the idea of karaoke was born.
Inoue developed eleven karaoke boxes – karaoke means empty orchestra – which contained 8 backing tracks for would-be singers. He rented them out to bars in Kobe and they proved to be phenomenally successful.
However, exhibiting the characteristically flawed genius of our inductees, Daisuke made one catastrophic mistake. He forgot to patent his invention, thinking that he hadn’t really invented anything, merely assembling stuff that already existed. Naturally, the absence of patents meant that big Japanese corporations stepped in to exploit the opportunity and it is calculated that our inventor lost out on around $110 million in royalties. Some oversight!
Daisuke did profit marginally from the karaoke boom that he created. He invented a pesticide that repelled cockroaches and rats and other vermin that, showing good taste, in my view, attacked the electrical wiring in the machines. He also got some gratuitous recognition by being named one of the most influential Asians of the century by Time Magazine in 1999 and having a Japanese film called Karaoke made about him in 2005.
The moral of his story is never under-estimate what you have done. For being an unworldly genius, Daisuke Inoue is a worthy inductee.
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