Casey Kasem Is Dead At 82

Casey Kasem, known for his longtime career bringing hit music to the world through radio shows like “America’s Top 40,” died Sunday at the age of 82 according to his daughter.

Kerri Kasem broke the news in a Facebook post early Sunday:

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.

According to The New York Times, Kasem succumbed to a long battle with “Lewy body dementia, a progressive disease of the body’s neurological and muscle cells.” The legendary disc jockey was being cared for in a hospital in Gig Harbor, Washington since June 1.

A judge granted Kerri Kasem the ability to take her father off life support last week, the latest turn in a long-running family drama that has seen Casey’s children from a previous marriage come into conflict with his current wife, Jean. Last month, Jean took Casey from his nursing home in California to a friend’s home in Washington state, an action that could have led to the pop disc jockey’s death and sparked a search by his children.

Born in Detroit as Kemal Amin Kasem, Casey Kasem would become most well-known for popularizing the “top 40” format on radio. He began his career in Flint, Michigan, and the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network in the 1950s, moving to stations across the country before “American Top 40” took to the airwaves on July 4, 1970. It was innovative in drawing its songs from Billboard‘s weekly rankings. Kasem would host a version of that program for most of the next forty years, becoming one of the most familiar radio personalities in the country.

He’s known for his sign-off, in which he told listeners to “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

Kasem’s distinctive voice wasn’t known just for his Top 40 hosting. He voiced Shaggy on the “Scooby-Doo” cartoons as well.

Apart from his outsize influence in the entertainment industry, Kasem was also politically active. His parents were Lebanese immigrants and he made a point to promote a positive portrayal of Arab Americans in film and television as a member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

That cultural heritage played a key role in Kasem’s own radio personality.

“I was drawing on the Arabic tradition of storytelling one-upmanship,” he said, according to The New York Times. “When I was a kid, men would gather in my parents’ living room and tell tales and try to outdo each other. I couldn’t understand the language, but I was fascinated.”

USA Today also reports that Kasem expressed pride at his involvement in protesting nuclear weapons and, in particular, his arrest during one such protest.

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