News / Arts & Entertainment

    Casey Kasem, 'American Top 40' Host, Dies at Age 82

    FILE - Casey Kasem poses for photographers after receiving the Radio Icon award during The 2003 Radio Music Awards in Las Vegas. Kasem died at the age of 82, June 15, 2014.
    FILE - Casey Kasem poses for photographers after receiving the Radio Icon award during The 2003 Radio Music Awards in Las Vegas. Kasem died at the age of 82, June 15, 2014.
    VOA News
    Casey Kasem, the U.S. radio personality with the distinctive voice who counted down the top pop music hits on his popular weekly show and also provided the voice of hippie sleuth Shaggy on the "Scooby Doo'' cartoons, died on Sunday. He was 82.
     
    “Early this Father's Day morning, our dad Casey Kasem passed away surrounded by family and friends,” his daughter, Kerri Kasem, said in a statement posted online. “Even though we know he is in a better place and no longer suffering, we are heartbroken.”
     
    FILE - Casey Kasem, along with his wife, Jean Kasem, arrives at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Kasem, the smooth-voiced radio broadcaster who became the king of the top 40 countdown, died at age 82, June 15, 2014.FILE - Casey Kasem, along with his wife, Jean Kasem, arrives at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Kasem, the smooth-voiced radio broadcaster who became the king of the top 40 countdown, died at age 82, June 15, 2014.
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    FILE - Casey Kasem, along with his wife, Jean Kasem, arrives at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Kasem, the smooth-voiced radio broadcaster who became the king of the top 40 countdown, died at age 82, June 15, 2014.
    FILE - Casey Kasem, along with his wife, Jean Kasem, arrives at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Kasem, the smooth-voiced radio broadcaster who became the king of the top 40 countdown, died at age 82, June 15, 2014.

    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 Casey Kasem was suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease and that his wife was isolating him from friends and family members.
     
    He also suffered from Lewy Body Disease, a form of dementia.
     
    Last week Casey Kasem, who had developed a severe bedsore while in Washington, was placed in “comfort-oriented care” in a Washington state hospital.
     
    He was receiving pain medication, but not food or water, after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy determined that feeding him would have been detrimental to his health, Reuters reported.
     
    It was a sad, startling end for a man whose voice had entertained and informed music lovers worldwide.
     
    Born in Detroit

    Kemal Amin Kasem was born in 1932 in Detroit, the son of Lebanese immigrants.
     
    He was active in speaking out for greater understanding of Arab-Americans - both on political issues involving the Mideast and on arts and media issues.
     
    Casey Kasem 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, initially calling himself Kemal Kasem.
     
    In a 1997 visit with high school students in Dearborn, Michigan, home to a large Arab-American community, he was asked why he changed his name to Casey.
     
    “It didn't sound like a deejay; it wasn't hip. So we decided I'd be `Casey at the Mike' - and I have been since,” Kasem said.
     
    VOA's Eric Felten Looks Back at Casey Kasem's Career
    A Look Back at Casey Kasem's Careeri
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    Kasem became perhaps best-known for his “American Top 40,” which 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.
     
    He stepped down from “American Top 40” in 2004 and retired altogether in 2009.
     
    On his syndicated show, Kasem counted down the 40 most popular songs of the week in order, finishing with the No. 1 song. Before each song, Kasem told an upbeat anecdote about the singer's road to success and read letters from listeners.
     
    At its peak, Kasem's show was heard on more than 1,000 stations, including Armed Forces Radio, in about 50 countries.

    “I accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. That is the timeless thing,” Kasem told The New York Times in 1990.

    "Long-distance dedications"

    While many DJs entertained 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.
     
    The show continued in varying forms - and for varying syndicators - until his retirement in 2009. In his signoff, he would tell viewers: “And don't forget: keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
     
    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.’“
     
    Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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