Don Lewis, Digital Musician and Synth Pioneer, Lifeless at 81



Digital music pioneer Don Lewis has died. Pitchfork stories that the composer and musician, who created an instrument referred to as the Stay Digital Orchestra (LEO), handed away on Sunday (November 6). He was 81 years outdated.

Lewis grew up in Dayton, Ohio and developed an curiosity in music as a toddler after watching an organist carry out at his church. He studied electronics engineering pupil on the former Tuskegee Institute, the place he additionally joined the Tuskegee Refrain and performed music at rallies for Martin Luther King Jr. In 1961, he enlisted within the Air Power and served as a Nuclear Weapons Specialist for 4 years in Roswell, New Mexico. He then relocated to Denver, Colorado, the place he labored as an engineering technician, earlier than quitting his job to turn out to be a full-time musician and shifting to Los Angeles.

Lewis designed LEO, a synthesizer system linking a number of synths collectively that predated the MIDI controller by ten years, in 1974 and accomplished it in 1977. He additionally labored with Roland founder Ikutarô Kakehashi on rhythm items such because the FR-7L, CR-68, CR-78, and contributed to the making of the Yamaha DX7.

Lewis collaborated with quite a lot of notable musicians and producers, together with Quincy Jones, Sergio Mendez, and Michael Jackson. He additionally opened for the Seaside Boys on their 1974 tour and carried out on the 1975 and 1976 Newport Jazz Pageant.

A feature-length documentary chronicling his life, Ned Augustenborg’s The Ballad of Don Lewis: The Untold Story of a Synthesizer Pioneer, was launched in 2020. The movie will make its US broadcast debut on PBS in February 2023 as Don Lewis and the Stay Electrical Orchestra.



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