RIP: Casey Kasem

Posted June 15, 2014 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Popular disc jockey and voice actor dies at the age of 82

The signature voice of radio, Casey Kasem, has passed away at the age of 82.

Kasem, who hosted the syndicated weekend show American Top 40 and its many reincarnations for nearly four decades, died of complications from dementia at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Gig Harbor, Wash. on Father’s Day, June 15.

Danny Deraney, the publicist for daughter Kerri Kasem, confirmed that the radio host died at 3:23 am on Sunday. On her Facebook page, Kerri Kasem, wrote the following message:

Early this Father’s Day morning, our dad Casey Kasem passed away surrounded by family and friends. Even though we know he is in a better place and no longer suffering, we are heartbroken. Thank you for all your love, support and prayers. The world will miss Casey Kasem, an incredible talent and humanitarian; we will miss our Dad. 
With love, Kerri, Mike and Julie.

For generations, Kasem’s voice outlined a host of shows dedicated to the hits on the U.S. Top 40. The syndicated American Top 40 ran from 1970 to 1988. In 1989, Kasem left ABC after a salary dispute and branched out to start his own line of programs, including Casey’s Top 40, Casey’s Hot 20 and Casey’s Countdown. When AC had reached its creative peak, Kasem developed a number of shows for the format with American Top 40, American Top 20 and American Top 10. Kasem returned to the American Top 40 in 1998 and held down the fort until 2004. After retiring from American Top 40, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest succeeded him.

Born in Detroit, Kasem rose up the ranks as a regional disc jockey in California and quickly became the voice of radio after the launch of his radio show. From 1989 to 1998, Kasem’s Top 40 – inspired by the 1950’s TV show Your Hit Parade – beamed into homes and cars across America, providing the perfect window into the popular countdown of modern pop music. The show largely depended on Billboard’s Hot 100 in its early years. It later switched to chart placements on Radio and Records airplay data in the late ‘90’s. Today it uses data compiled from Mediabase. Along with spinning the big hits, Kasem’s Top 40 featured a fun mix of trivia, listener requests, song dedications and artist spotlights.

Kasem even made great strides in the world of character voices on television and cinema, providing work on Sesame Street and Here Comes Peter Cottontail. He also was the voice of Robin on Super Friends. In the 1980’s, he contributed voice overs to the popular Transformers cartoon and did lots of commercials for Chevron, Ford, Raid, Oscar Mayer, Hoover vacuums, Heinz ketchup and Continental Airlines. Kasem is best known for providing the voice of Shaggy for the CBS cartoon Scooby-Doo Where Are You. He retired voice work for Shaggy in 2009.

Kasem’s health started to deteriorate around October 2013 when Kerri Kasem announced that her father was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Months later, Kasem was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. Because of his condition, Kasem lost the ability to speak.

In May, a family feud between Kerri Kasem and wife Jean Kasem leaked into the media over rites of granted conservatorship over the ailing radio personality. Trying to settle matters in court, the family sought to find Kasem after hearing that he may possibly be living outside of the U.S. He was later found in critical, but stable condition at a hospital in the state of Washington. On June 11, Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy granted Kerri the authority to implement end-of-life measures, including the withholding of medication, food and fluids.

Ryan Seacrest remembered Kasem in memory by tweeting:

Kasem, known affectionately as the “King of the Countdowns,” was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1992 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Billboard in 1997. He is survived by his wife, four children and four grandchildren.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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