Former ‘Top 40’ radio DJ Casey Kasem dies at 82
Danny Deraney, publicist for Kasem’s daughter, Kerri, says Kasem died Sunday morning.
Kasem’s “American Top 40” began on July 4, 1970, in Los Angeles. The No. 1 song on his list then was “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” by Three Dog Night.
The show continued in varying forms - and for varying syndicators - until his retirement in 2009. In his sign-off, he would tell viewers: “And don’t forget: keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
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 Kasem 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 in May 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. Jean Kasem said she moved her husband to protect his privacy and to consult with doctors. Casey Kasem developed a severe bedsore while in Washington and was in critical condition by the time he was hospitalized in early June.
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 No. 1 song was Three Dog Night’s cover of Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” The show expanded to hundreds of 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 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 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.
“The idea from the beginning was to do the type of thing on radio that Ed Sullivan did on television, good, honest stories with human interest,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1975.
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.
He was born Kemal Amin Kasem in 1932 in Detroit. He began his broadcasting career in the radio club at Detroit’s Northwestern High School and was soon a disc jockey on WJBK radio in Detroit.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Kasem was active in speaking out for greater understanding of Arab-Americans.