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Creator of J-pop who thought musical talent a hindrance

Boy band impresario Johnny Kitagawa manufactured a unique business model

TOKYO -- John Hiromu Kitagawa, founder of Johnny & Associates -- better known as "Johnny's" talent agency -- was an extraordinary character who grabbed an opportunity that could only have arisen in Japan's postwar upheaval and ran with it all the way, creating some of the top "boy bands" of the 1990s and early 2000s. Kitagawa, who died in Tokyo on July 9 at the age of 87, has left an indelible mark on Japanese society, and well beyond Japanese shores.

For better or for worse, J-pop would not be what it is today without the innovations that Kitagawa pioneered. These had nothing to do with music and everything to do with the system he created, which gave him total control over the personal lives and careers of his stars and formidable influence over Japanese media, by feeding their hunger for obedient, unthreatening celebrities.

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