Casey Kasem, US 'king of top 40', dies at 82

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 3:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 3:21am


Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem, an internationally famous radio broadcaster with a cheerful manner and gentle voice who became the king of the top 40 countdown with a syndicated show that ran for decades in the US, died yesterday. He was 82.

In recent years, Kasem was trapped in a feud between his three adult children and his second wife, former actress Jean Kasem. In 2013, his children filed a legal petition to gain control of his health care, alleging that he was suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease and that his wife was isolating him from friends and family members.

Kasem also suffered from Lewy body disease, a form of dementia.

A judge last month temporarily stripped his wife of her caretaker role after she moved him from a medical facility in Los Angeles to a friend's home in Washington state.

It was a sad, startling end for a man whose voice had entertained and informed music lovers worldwide.

Kasem's American Top 40 began on July 4, 1970, in Los Angeles, when the No1 song was Three Dog Night's cover of Randy Newman's Mama Told Me Not to Come.

The show expanded to hundreds of US stations, including Armed Forces Radio, and continued in varying forms - and for varying syndicators - into the 21st century.

He stepped down from American Top 40 in 2004 and retired altogether in 2009, completing his musical journey with hard-rock band Shinedown's Second Chance.

In his sign-off, he would tell viewers: "And don't forget: Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

It was emblematic of his sentimental appeal in an otherwise raucous business. While many American DJs convulsed their listeners with stunts and "morning zoo" snarkiness, Kasem would read "long-distance dedications" of songs sent in by readers and introduce countdown records with sympathetic background anecdotes about the singers.

Kasem's legacy reached well beyond music. His voice was heard in TV cartoons such as Scooby-Doo (he was Shaggy) and in numerous commercials.

"They are going to be playing Shaggy and Scooby-Doo for eons and eons," Kasem told The New York Times in 2004. "And they're going to forget Casey Kasem - unless they happen to step on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I'll be one of those guys people say 'Who's that?' about. And someone else will say, 'He's just some guy who used to be on the radio.'"

The son of Lebanese immigrants, Kasem was active in speaking out for greater understanding of Arab-Americans - both on political issues involving the Middle East and on arts and media issues.

Kasem was born Kemal Amin Kasem in 1932 in Detroit. He began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey in Detroit, initially calling himself Kemal Kasem.