Casey Kasem, the voice of pop radio for nearly four decades, died Sunday at St. Anthony’s Hospital near Seattle. He was 82. His death was confirmed by his daughter Kerri in a Facebook post.
“Early this Father’s Day morning, our dad Casey Kasem passed away surrounded by family and friends,” wrote Kerri. “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.”
As host of American Top 40, Kasem was the nation’s tastemaker, doling out hit singles and music factoids as he counted down each week’s most popular songs for nearly 35 years. A talent that transcended his medium, Kasem became a household name thanks to his distinctly trademark voice, his aspiring catchphrases and his love and genuine enthusiasm of the music he was broadcasting nationwide every week.
After bouncing around the nation as a disc jockey from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, Kasem finally landed in Los Angeles in the late Sixties. He first enjoyed showbiz success as a voice actor, lending his versatile pipes to cartoon characters like Robin and, most famously, Shaggy in Scooby-Doo, a role Kasem would fill from 1969 to 2010. From there, Kasem used his disc jockey skills – which he honed as an announcer for Armed Forces Radio Korea when he was in the Army – to co-create and host American Top 40, a syndicated weekly music countdown show that would become pop radio’s equivalent of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.
Kasem’s run as host of American Top 40 began in 1970, giving him a national platform to showcase his unique personality and epic catchphrases like “The hits don’t stop ’til we reach the top” and “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” Kasem remained with the program until 1988, when a contract dispute led him to start his own syndicated countdown show called Casey’s Top 40.
With Kasem no longer the voice of American Top 40 — radio host Shadoe Stevens took over the role — ratings for AT40 plummeted as stations instead picked up Casey’s Top 40. American Top 40 was ultimately canceled in 1995; three years later, Kasem himself acquired the rights to the show and reinstated himself as host. Kasem was a mainstay on radios until January 4th, 2004, when he handed the AT40 reigns to American Idol emcee Ryan Seacrest.
In 2006, Sirius XM and syndication radio company Premiere Networks acquired the rights to broadcast episodes of AT40 from the 1970s and 1980s, ensuring Kasem would continue to have a presence on both terrestrial and satellite radio even if his disc jockey days were behind him. Along with infomercial work and television appearances (primarily appearing as himself), Kasem continued to host two smaller countdown programs following his departure from AT40, but he hung up his radio microphone for good in 2009. The following year, Kasem retired as the voice of the ever-hungry slacker Shaggy after 40 years.
Health issues and custody problems unfortunately marred Kasem’s last years as his children from his first wife engaged in a legal battle over Casey’s well being with Kasem’s second wife, actress Jean Kasem. After Kasem was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, the situation often played itself out on tabloid sites, creating a sad final chapter for what was otherwise one of radio’s greatest talents. Kasem had been in a hospital on life support when a judge Tuesday revoked an earlier decision mandating that Kasem be artificially fed and hydrated. The decision allowed daughter Kerri, who had been battling with Jean, to make the final decision on Kasem’s treatment.
For his vast work in the entertainment industry, Kasem was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981. Four years later, he was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame for his radio career. Kasem is also a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame.