For more than three decades, Casey Kasem was the voice that counted down the American Top 40 on the radio in the morning on Sundays, and was also well known as being the voice of Shaggy in the cartoon series Scooby-Doo. At the great age of 82, Casey Kasem died surrounded by his friends and family in Gig Harbour, Washington. The voice that had a global reach many may remember as being on the radio every Sunday morning counting down the American Top 40, Casey Kasem died from complications from advanced Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Disease, which is a type of dementia that attacks the human body’s muscle and neurological cells.
Born on April 27, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan as Kemal Amen Kasem, Mr. Kasem will be most memorialized as the voice that opened the American Top 40. That radio show aired from July 4, 1970, on only five radio stations, to the last countdown he voiced in 2009, to millions of fans all over the world. In 2004, Ryan Seacrest had taken over the show, which wound up becoming much like other syndicated radio shows: only there to sell more music related products.
During his long and varied career, Casey Kasem was not just a disc jockey. He also was the host of a televised version of the American Top 40, which conflicted with his contract with the radio show. Mr. Kasem then ended his long relationship with the radio company that ran American Top 40. A year after he stopped announcing for American Top 40, he started Casey’s Top 40 on a different radio network. Most of his fan base followed him there and the rest is history. Casey Kasem, who died at the grand age of 82, had also had a few appearances in movies, but not much of a career.
He played a cameo role as himself in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters and another cameo role in the 1977 flick, New York, New York, where he acted as a disc jockey in the era during WWII. His voice can also be heard on such commercials during the Hair Band era for companies such as Oscar Mayer, Ford, Chevron, and Sears. However, Casey Kasem will mostly be remembered for his voice as the goofy, hippy character, Shaggy, who was the best friend of the hero of the television show, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! The original cartoon ran from 1969 to 1972, and was a popular kids program back then just as it is celebrated today.
Casey Kasem was also actively involved later in life in helping to promote Israeli and Arab dialogue. Years after the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in 1982, Mr. Kasem got heavily involved in becoming an advocate for Arab-American determinants for Middle East peace. This was due in part to the fact that his parents were part of the Druze denomination that was located in Lebanon. He made several public appearances at various synagogues and mosques around the Middle East.
Over and above all else, Mr. Kasem was a vegan and active participant in antinuclear and animal rights activities. Back in the land of doing voices for television, Casey Kasem was also the voice of Robin on the Batman television series, performing various letter sounds on Sesame Street while additionally working on tons of commercials, and even helping out the NBC Television Network in its entirety from 1977 through to 1981. Yet Casey Kasem, the man whose voice will most likely be recollected with the prelude to the American Top 40, has died at the considerable age of 82. Although he had a vast career filled with many differing hats and scopes of abilities, many people do not know of the many accomplishments of Casey Kasem.
During the years since he retired in 2009, Casey Kasem and his family have been in the news, mostly regarding court appearances as the Kasem family battled over his health care arrangements. Last year, his kids had filed a petition for control of his health care, as they alleged that he was being isolated from friends and family by his wife, actress Jean Kasem. She played such roles as the ditzy blond, Loretta Tortelli, on the television show Cheers, as well as the character’s daughter, Liberty. In May of this year, a judge had taken the right of caretaker away from her for moving her husband away from a Los Angeles medical center to a friend’s private residence in Washington.
Although Jean Kasem claims to have made the move to protect her husband’s privacy and to gain further care for him, Casey Kasem developed such a serious bedsore that he was taken to a hospital in the beginning of June. In an agreement which gave his three oldest kids the legal ability to act as his health care officiates, Casey Kasem had stipulated that if he was unable to rally from whatever it was that was inhibiting his recovery; he did not want to be put on life support of any kind. This request led to bitter differences between Jean Kasem and Mr. Kasem’s kids that was played out in a courtroom drama over the last several years.
Some claim that Casey Kasem, who died at the age of 82, was an enormous help in elevating the role disc jockeys play as watchers of the human condition and storytellers. With a voice that was both comforting as well as compelling, he delivered not only a Top 40 countdown, but passed down the airwaves tidbits of information pertaining to pop music that were not in the mainstream at the time.
In an era before the internet, Casey Kasem delivered a boundless energy and enthusiasm for creating fantastic access to information. His show was where the world turned to find out what the Top 40 singles of the week were. The public also tuned in to hear who had dropped a spot or two and who had gained any ground. It was where generations of music lovers crossed their fingers that the song they liked at the time would become a number one hit.
Even though Casey Kasem has had an exciting, fulfilling career, not too many people are aware of the full magnitude of his varied pursuits. Nor do many people know how much he had a hand in contributing to the many things we take in stride today. For example, thanks to his Top 40 shows, the public today enjoys such countdown headlines like “15 things you did not know about Chick-fil-A” and “32 Animals Who Think They Are People,” in addition to the countdown culture that inspired countdown programs over the past years.
No matter how Casey Kasem is remembered, he will always be revered for his passion and flare in his craft. It was his voice that will be brought to the minds of millions of fans worldwide that listened to him counting down the newest hits through the decades. He has touched many lives with his famous countdown that included band trivia, long distance dedications, and generic sound bites. It is with heavy hearts that the public hears that Casey Kasem died at the magnificent age of 82. His charisma on the radio was what many consider made the Top 40 scene so fantastic and listened to by as many as 10 million people at its height of popularity.
It could be said that Casey Kasem, who died at the age of 82, represented a father figure from a throwback era of wholesomeness. This was evident in his tidy, groomed hair and pullover sweaters: A version of Dick Clark, some may say. He took the role of music orator very seriously because he believed that he had a duty to not only tell good stories, but to relay stories that were accurate as well. Regardless of how he will be venerated, Casey Kasem will be in millions of thoughts and prayers over the next several weeks and in the public’s hearts and minds for generations to come.
By Korrey Laderoute