Casey Kasem, the voice of the American Top 40 countdown radio show for more than three decades, and the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo for even longer, died early Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Gig Harbor, WA due to complications from Lewy body dementia. He was 82.
His daughter, Kerri Kasem, first broke the news on her Facebook page with the following statement:
“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.”
What Dick Clark became for televised music, Casey Kasem became for radio. Kasem co-created and hosted his signature syndicated countdown radio show in the early 1970s, and his unmistakable voice and warm style won over a huge following of listeners. So loyal was his following that when a contract dispute arose in 1988 and Kasem left AT40 to start his own show, Casey’s Top 40, most of his listeners followed him, leaving the original radio show to flounder for several years before finally folding in 1995. Kasem reacquired the rights to the show three years later and resumed his post at AT40, eventually handing it over to Ryan Seacrest in 2004.
Kasem’s last days were plagued with failing health and a long-standing dispute between his children and his second wife over visitation, medical care and legal conservatorship, a dispute that made its way into the courts and the media. For a brief time, Kasem’s wife took him off the grid, leading to a nationwide search as to his whereabouts. The ailing broadcaster was eventually discovered in Washington State, where he spent his final days.
As news of Casey Kasem’s death spread, the social networks came alive as broadcasters, musicians and other celebrities took to Twitter to express their condolences:
— Carson Daly (@CarsonDaly) June 15, 2014
RIP DJ Casey Kasem. One of the greats of American radio. — Bryan Adams (@bryanadams) June 15, 2014
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) June 15, 2014
Casey Kasem, one of the most decent men I ever knew. ..”keep reaching for the stars…” look for The Light, godspeed pic.twitter.com/aVGG84ujfG
— Nancy Sinatra (@NancySinatra) June 15, 2014
Ryan Seacrest, Kasem’s successor on American Top 40, also released a statement:
“It’s a sad day for the broadcasting community and for radio listeners around the world. When I was a kid, I would listen to Casey Kasem’s AT40 show every weekend, and dream about someday becoming a radio DJ. So when decades later I took over his AT40 countdown show, it was a surreal moment. Casey had a distinctive friendly on-air voice, and he was just as affable and nice if you had the privilege to be in his company. He’ll be greatly missed by all of us.”
“Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.” RIP, Casey Kasem.