Robert Moog, the inventor whose synthesiser electrified the 1960s, dies of cancer aged 71

Just four months after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, Moog, the inventor of the series of music synthesisers that bore his name and helped to revolutionise modern rock sounds in the mid-Sixties and Seventies, died at his home in Asheville aged 71 on Sunday.

While other synthesisers may have been available, it was the Moogs to which bands and performers almost invariably turned. The Beatles used a Moog to record their last album, Abbey Road.

But more than anyone it was Walter Carlos - now Wendy following a sex change - who turned the Moog into a mainstream alternative to traditional instruments. His 1969 album Switched-On Bach, a collection of Bach pieces played with Moog machines, became the first classical album to go platinum. In 1977, we vibrated to the first completely Moog-synthesised pop hit, "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer.

Musicians chose the Moog because of the unique quality of sound it created. It soon began to serve as a solo instrument, particularly for artists such as Manfred Mann, Yes and Pink Floyd.

"The sound defined progressive music as we know it," said Keith Emerson, keyboards player with Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

It was back in 1954 that Moog first started his unusual career, building and selling so-called theremins with his father. Originally invented by a Russian of the same name in 1919, the theremin was a box that made strange musical sounds when the artist waved his hands between two protruding tubes. Ten years later, using new solid-state electronic technology and with the help of a New Jersey composer, Herbert Deutsch, he invented and marketed his first Moog Modular Synthesiser.

He can have had no idea at the time how far it would catapult popular music into its electronic future. According to friends, he never felt like a musician or a star himself. He was just a technician.

He sold his Moog-making company in 1974, just as the popularity of the new synthesisers was peaking and before they were somewhat overshadowed by new digital sound-making machines. But the Moog sound never died and was kept alive over the ensuing years by progressive rock musicians such as Brian Eno and Frank Zappa as well as the Cure, Fatboy Slim and Stereolab.

Last year a documentary film about the inventor, simply called Moog, was released with tributes to him from a range of artists including DJ Logic, Money Mark, Mix Master Mike, Jean Jacques Perrey and Rick Wakeman, formerly of Yes.

Meanwhile, in recent years the musician Charles Carlini has been promoting a festival in his honour in New York City called Moogfest.

"He's like an Einstein of music," Mr Carlini said, shortly before Moog's death. "He sees it like, there's a thought, an idea in the air, and it passes through him. A lot of people don't realise what this man brought to the masses. He changed the way we hear music."

After spending much of the Nineties as research professor of music at the University of North Carolina, Moog returned to running a full-time electronic instrument business, opening his latest company, Moog Music, just three years ago.

Four other inventions that changed the musical world

PIANOFORTE

The piano was developed in 1709 by Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco. Unlike the harpsichord, where the strings are plucked, the piano is a percussion instrument, which uses hammers to create the sound.

SAXOPHONE

The saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax, and first exhibited at the 1841 Brussels exhibition. Originally intended as an orchestral instrument, it has transformed jazz.

ELECTRIC GUITAR

When the solid-body electric guitar first became commercially viable in the Fifties, Gibson approached the guitarist Les Paul to help develop a more stylish version. The Les Paul Model, as it was originally called, has changed little since its debut in 1952.

DRUMULATOR

The first Drumulator appeared in 1983, followed by drum machines from Linn and Oberheim, which paved the way for bass-heavy electronic music such as drum 'n' bass and house.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?