This year marks the 30th anniversary of MIDI, the language that electronic instruments use to talk to one another. It’s how drum machines stay in sync with arpeggiators, how a keyboard tells a synthesizer which notes to play, and how a DJ controller tells an MP3 how to behave. Making a keyboard without MIDI today would be kind of like making a car without air conditioning — something people didn’t know they needed until it existed.

Before there was MIDI, there was Don Lewis. Raised with a rich gospel tradition in Dayton, he brought his myriad musical talents to San Francisco in the ‘60s, where he was a staple in nightclubs. His one-man-band became known for its wild array of electronic instrumentation, which was still a novelty in those days — a small truckload of synthesizers and early rhythm boxes accompanied Don’s richly-vocoded tenor to make a sound no one had heard but everyone liked.