Casey Kasem, the syndicated radio giant who in the course of his storied career, helped to invent the radio countdown show, encouraged millions of listeners to reach for the stars and inspired many wannabe radio disc jockeys, died last Sunday at a hospital in Gig Harbor, Washington, surrounded by family and friends. He was 82.
Kemal Amin “Casey” Kasem was born of Lebanese decent on April 27, 1932 in Detroit. Kasem was a co-creator of “American Top 40,” a syndicated pop music program that featured the week’s top singles, trivia tidbits and listener dedications. He began developing the format as a disc jockey in the 1960s.
In a 1975 Los Angeles Times interview, Kasem said he had been doing “a regular screaming DJ show” in San Francisco in the early 1960s when his boss suggested he talk about the records instead.
He resisted the change since his screaming routine had brought him top ratings. But he said he had learned “after a particularly unpleasant situation in Buffalo never to argue with general managers.”
Kasem was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2007. He had been receiving home health care for a form of dementia called Lewy Body Disease, according to court papers filed by his daughter, who was appointed his temporary conservator in May 2014.
Kasem was frequently in the news in the past several years as his wife, actress Jean Kasem, and his three adult children battled in court and in public over control of his health care. In 2013, his children filed a legal petition for control, alleging that Kasem was suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease and that his wife was isolating him from friends and family members.
Ryan Seacrest says the death of his radio role model is a loss for radio listeners worldwide.
Seacrest, who took over the “American Top 40” countdown from Kasem in 2009, said in a statement that as a child, he’d listen to Kasem’s show every weekend “and dream about someday becoming a radio DJ.”
He says Kasem had a distinctive friendly on-air voice and will be greatly missed.