Dave Smith, also known as the “Father of MIDI”, invented a range of synths that were used by electronic artists throughout the ‘80s as well as by Radiohead on their experimental ‘Kid A’. He passed away on May 31 at the age of 72. Read on to learn more about this “Synth Pioneer”.
Smith Did What he Loved Best…
A post on the Sequential website confirmed the news. “It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Dave Smith has died. We’re heartbroken, but take some small solace in knowing he was on the road doing what he loved best in the company of family, friends, and artists.” With his Sequential company, Smith also introduced the Prophet-5 synth, an industry standard-setter in the ’80s.
With Sequential (originally known as Sequential Circuits), Dave released various sequencers and programmers to be used with the Moog and ARP synthesizers prevalent at the time. He designed his own release, the “Prophet-5”, the first polyphonic synth with programmable memory, to allow sounds to be stored and re-accessed at any time.
Prophet-5 became the gold standard in its field and was used in recording both epochal ’80s blockbuster LPs like Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Madonna’s Like a Virgin and envelope-pushing scores for era composers like John Carpenter and Vangelis.
Smith’s greatest legacy includes the introduction of MIDI to synth technology. Standing for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, Smith’s invention (along with Roland pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi and Sequential engineer Chet Wood) of MIDI allowed unprecedented levels of synchronization and communication between different instruments, computers and other recording equipment.
MIDI was a revolution in those times as it was previously incredibly difficult to achieve such sync— particularly between equipment designed by separate manufacturers. The innovation of MIDI helped facilitate the explosion of forward-thinking programming and creativity throughout the industry of the ’80s, essentially making the future of pop music accessible to all.
Not just this, Dave Smith is credited for developing the world’s first computer synthesizer as president of Seer Systems in the ’90s. He launched his company “Dave Smith Instruments” in 2002. Dave won many lifetime awards for his work in the field of musical technology, including a Technical Grammy for inventing MIDI in 2013.
Tributes Pour In…
So sad to hear of Dave Smiths death, he started Sequential Circuits who made some of the most iconic synths from the early 80s until now… He invented MIDI!!! The Prophet 5 is one of the greatest synths ever made, he will never be forgotten. Great man and a dear friend..
— Roger O'Donnell (@RogerODonnellX) June 2, 2022
Members of The Cure, Bon Iver, Hot Chip and Duran Duran have paid tribute to Dave Smith following his death at the age of 72. The Cure’s Roger O’Donnell tweeted: So sad to hear of Dave Smith’s death. He started Sequential Circuits and made some of the most iconic synths from the early ‘80s until now. He invented MIDI!!! The Prophet 5 is one of the greatest synths ever made, he will never be forgotten. Great man and a dear friend.”
Hot Chip tweeted that they would be “nothing without what (Smith) created” before calling him “a legend & an incredibly warm, friendly person”. Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes paid tribute by stating, “I am really sad to hear Dave Smith, synth guru and designer of the Prophet V has left our analogue world. He was a pioneer and never stopped looking for new ways forward in the synth universe.”
Rhodes added, “When I was making the first Duran Duran album, the Prophet V was one of my main instruments, I have continued to use it on virtually every record I have made since then. Without Dave’s vision and ingenuity, the sound of the 1980s would have been very different, he truly changed the sonic soundscape of a generation. He had a deep understanding of what musicians wanted and I am eternally grateful for the tools of creation he provided.” Have a look at more tweets below:
Farewell to the great Dave Smith (1950-2022) of Sequential Circuits, the 'Father of MIDI,' who helped create a sonic world that can be heard through the work of everyone from Michael Jackson to Madonna, Japan to Radiohead. pic.twitter.com/wyKW8a8OlC
— Robin Rimbaud – Scanner (@robinrimbaud) June 2, 2022
— FLYLO (@flyinglotus) June 2, 2022
without Dave Smith, no MIDI as we know it. no widely available polyphonic synthesis in the form that we know it. thank you for envisioning how electronic music could evolve & giving us the tools to make it sound like whatever we can imagine. rest in peace
— Good Willsmith (@GoodWillsmith) June 2, 2022
Just heard the news that Dave Smith from Sequential Circuits , the man who "invented" the "ahead of it's time" Prophet 5 synth in 1977 , has passed away . This is becoming a terrible year for loss.
— Rick Wakeman CBE (@GrumpyOldRick) June 2, 2022
RIP Dave Smith 😔 One of the pioneering innovators and makers of the electronic world. I am grateful to have met and spoken to you and witness your gentle wisdom. Your creations have been the biggest influence on my music and continue to do so. Thank you
— Rival Consoles (@rivalconsoles) June 2, 2022
Dave’s invention, MIDI, is now a standard interface protocol for electronic instruments and recording/pro audio equipment. Smith did what he loved the most, mostly surrounded by his friends., family and renowned artists. He’s left behind an unforgettable legacy.