I just want to take a few minutes and pay my respects to a legend of broadcasting.
I vaguely remember the first time I heard Casey Kasem. It was many years ago, but I can still remember where I was parked, sitting in the car and browsing the stations when I came across The American Top 40. I remember thinking it was weird hearing a man with such a smooth voice (he’d obviously been doing this many years) talking about… Good Charlotte?! I often try to forget that Good Charlotte was ever actually a thing, but if it weren’t for them, I might not have known who Casey Kasem is.
I eventually learned more about Kasem, and learned that he’d been the host of The American Top 40 for far longer than I’d been alive. I have fond memories of years past, tuning into Kruz FM on the weekends and hearing the classic Top 40 episodes from the 70’s. Even then, he had that unmistakable voice.
Casey Kasem passed away this morning, and his daughter Kerri shared the news on Facebook:
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.
He’s been in rough shape for months, suffering from Lewy body disease, a kind of dementia with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease.
Kasem was being treated at St. Anthony Hospital in Washington since last week. His daughter Kerri was placed in charge of his medical care last Friday, after she won a legal battle with Kasem’s second wife, Jean.
Kasem, born Kemal Amin Kasem in Detroit in 1932, got his start in radio after being drafted into the U.S. Army, where he worked on the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network. He began as host of American Top 40 in 1970, where he would combine long distance dedications, memories, and music knowledge with the top hits of the day, before ending with his signature sign-off: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”
In addition to his radio work, Kasem voiced the Shaggy character in Scooby Doo for almost 40 years. He retired in 2009. Here he is doing his Shaggy voice at the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon with Jerry Lewis in the 1980s:
That right there is something that I just learned today – that Kasem was the voice of Shaggy! I’ve watched plenty of Scooby Doo in my day, but never really bothered to watch the credits.
Kasem once said that he’d be better remembered as the voice of Shaggy than as a radio legend.
“They are going to be playing Shaggy and Scooby-Doo for eons and eons, and they’re going to forget Casey Kasem- unless they happen to step on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” he told the New York Times. “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.'”
Though known for his trademark easy-going, comforting and knowledgeable hosting style, Kasem was also a perfectionist, which led to some famed off-air displays of temper – examples of which still make the rounds on YouTube. Regardless, he was beloved by countless radio listeners.
And of course, I felt the need to find one of these meltdowns to listen for myself. It’s weird hearing him hurl profanities, but it’s pretty entertaining.
This video contains some NSFW language, so if you’re at work or the little ones are around… Turn the speakers down.
RIP Mr. Kasem.