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Radio icon Casey Kasem dies at 82

Kasem served as an Army announcer, DJ during Korean War

Jun. 15, 2014 - 12:24PM   |  
Casey Kasem
Casey Kasem, the smooth-voiced radio broadcaster who became the king of the top 40 countdown, died June 15, according to Danny Deraney, publicist for Kasem's daughter, Kerri. He was 82. (Eric Jamison / AP)
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Casey Kasem, a radio voice who connected generations of Americans to thousands of rock and pop acts, died Sunday morning, according to multiple media outlets. He was 82.

Kerri Kasem, Casey’s daughter, announced the news on her Facebook page.

“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,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”

Kasem, hospitalized in Washington state since June 1, had been in declining health.

The longtime host of radio’s “American Top 40,” which he started in 1970, was a familiar voice to millions, known for his signature closing advice: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” Over the years, he hosted other versions of the music countdown show on radio and television.

The Detroit native, a son of Lebanese immigrants, also was an actor who did frequent voiceover work, including commercials and cartoon characters, most memorably Shaggy from the “Scooby-Do”o series.

Kasem had been in the news recently with his care the focus of a litigious dispute between his wife, Jean Kasem, and his grown children. For a time earlier this year, his children did not know his whereabouts.

The retired host was taken to a hospital following a dispute between Kerri and Jean.

A judge ruled June 11 that Kerri was allowed to withhold medication, food and fluids from her father, who was ailing from sepsis and dementia, as well as Parkinson’s.

Shortly after the judge’s ruling, Kerri wrote on Facebook, “For people who do not understand the natural dying process: Giving food and water to a dying body creates pain and further suffering. The body does not want or require food or water anymore in the dying process. My father can no longer digest foods and fluids fill his lungs up and will suffocate him. My Dad IS on pain meds.”

Kasem, known for his sonorous voice and a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, served as a disc jockey and radio announcer while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and he began his professional radio career in the 1950s.

In 1970, he started the iconic “American Top 40,” in which he introduced and then played the country’s top-selling singles, offering nuggets of information about the songs and performers and the occasional “long-distance dedication” from a fan. “Top 40” ran until 1988, with Kasem reviving it in 1998 after hosting versions with other titles in the interim. Ryan Seacrest, a next-generation host, took over the franchise in 2004.

A spinoff of his popular radio show was the syndicated television series “America’s Top 10,” which Kasem hosted through the 1980s. The show recapped the top 10 songs on various music charts, including rock, country and soul. Kasem brought elements of the radio broadcast to television, including answering questions with sometimes obscure facts about musical acts.

Kasem was also an outspoken advocate on issues. A member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, he was critical of Hollywood’s portrayal of Arabs in film. His activism was not limited. In 1989, he told then-USA Today columnist Larry King that one of his “proudest moments” was being arrested for protesting a nuclear weapons installation. “I’d do it again, gladly,” Kasem told King.

Contributing: Lorena Blas and Ann Oldenburg

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