Casey Kasem dead at 82, daughter’s publicist says

The Associated Press
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DJ became king of the Top 40 countdown

Casey Kasem, the internationally famous radio broadcaster with the cheerful manner and gentle voice who became the king of the Top 40 countdown with a syndicated show that ran for decades, died Sunday. He was 82.

In this Oct. 27, 2003 photo, Casey Kasem poses for photographers after receiving the Radio Icon award during The 2003 Radio Music Awards at the Aladdin Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. He died Sunday at 82. — File photo by The Associated Press

Danny Deraney, publicist for Kasem’s daughter, Kerri, says Kasem died Sunday morning.

Kasem’s “American Top 40” 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.

The show continued in varying forms — and for varying syndicators — until his retirement in 2009.

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 Kasem was suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease and that his wife was isolating him from friends and family members. Kasem also suffered from Lewy Body Disease, a form of dementia.

A judge in May temporarily stripped his wife of her caretaker role after she moved him from a medical facility in Los Angeles to a friend’s home in Washington state. Jean Kasem said she moved her husband to protect his privacy and to consult with doctors. Casey Kasem developed a severe bedsore while in Washington and was in critical condition by the time he was hospitalized in early June.

It was a sad, startling end for a man whose voice had entertained and informed music lovers worldwide.

His show had expanded to hundreds of stations, including Armed Forces Radio, and continued in varying forms — and for varying syndicators — into the 21st century. He stepped down from “American Top 40” in 2004 and retired altogether in 2009, completing his musical journey with Shinedown’s “Second Chance.”

In his signoff, he would tell viewers: “And don’t forget: keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

It was emblematic of his sentimental appeal in an otherwise raucous business. While many DJs convulsed their 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 idea from the beginning was to do the type of thing on radio that Ed Sullivan did on television, good, honest stories with human interest,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1975.

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.”

Organizations: Los Angeles Times, New York Times

Geographic location: Los Angeles, Washington

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