Beloved U.S. radio and TV personality Casey Kasem has died at the age of 82.
The entertainer, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, passed away this morning.
Confirming the sad news on her Facebook.com page, the broadcaster’s daughter Kerri writes, “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.”
Born Kemal Amin Kasem, the Detroit, Michigan native began his radio career in the mid-1950s, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to serve in the Korean War.
He ended up landing a job on the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network and decided to pursue a career in broadcasting after the war, heading to San Francisco, California, where he honed his skills as a DJ and became known for his rock ‘n’ roll trivia.
He went on to work at stations across the U.S., before launching his popular weekly chart show, the American Top 40, in 1970. He hosted the program until 1988, and again from 1998 to 2004, and served as presenter on two spin-off series, the American Top 20 and the American Top 10.
On the radio countdown shows, he became famous for his signature send-off, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
He moved into voice acting in the 1960s, lending his vocals to Batman’s sidekick Robin in the 1968 superhero cartoons, but Kasem was perhaps best known for providing the voice of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo franchise, a job he retained from 1969 until 1995 and once again from 2002 to 2009.
His other TV credits included Battle of the Planets, Cliffjumper and the original Transformers cartoons, while he made acting cameos in the original Hawaii Five-O police drama, Saved by the Bell, Charlie’s Angels, Columbo and the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and appeared in independent sci-fi/horror movie The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant, alongside Bruce Dern. He also made a cameo in 1984’s Ghostbusters.
Kasem was honored for his lengthy career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on his 49th birthday in April, 1981 and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1992.
His final years were blighted by ill health following his retirement in 2009, and he became the subject of a bitter family rivalry as his three eldest children, Julie, Mike and Kerri, from his first marriage to Linda Myers, battled with his second wife Jean, the mother of his youngest child Liberty, over his care.
In May, he was admitted to a Washington hospital, where he was treated for dementia, sepsis and and Parkinson’s disease.
His daughter Kerri Kasem was appointed his conservator last month, and last week was granted permission to withhold medication, food and water from her ailing father. On Friday, his wife Jean filed legal papers opposing that decision, insisting her husband was not close to death.
Among the first people to pay tribute to Kasem, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk honured the broadcaster’s animal rights efforts, telling press, “PETA joins in mourning the passing of former American Top 40 host Casey Kasem. From always touting the importance of going vegetarian to flying to Las Vegas at his own expense to speak out against an entertainer who beat orangutans backstage every night before his act, Kasem was proud to use his distinctive voice to support many social causes, including animal protection.”
And a statement from Ken Howard, the president of the Screen Actors Guild, which Kasem joined in 1966, reads, “For many, the multi-talented Casey Kasem was the voice of popular music, and his long-running countdown program brought exposure for many of his fellow union members. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends, and may we all remember him best by ‘reaching for the stars’.”
Nancy Sinatra, Nikki Sixx, Marie Osmond, and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest have all step forward to pay tribute to the broadcasting legend as well. Taking to Twitter to remember, DJ Seacrest recalled the 82 year old’s famous catchphrase, writing, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. We’ll miss you, Casey”, while Motley Crue star Sixx adds, “RIP Casey Kasem who inspired all of us in radio & turned millions of people onto music. Sending love to @KerriKasem, family and friends.”
Osmond called Kasem an “industry icon”, while Sinatra tweets, “Casey Kasem, one of the most decent men I ever knew… ‘keep reaching for the stars…’ look for The Light, godspeed.”
Other tributes have come from the members of ‘N SYNC, Bryan Adams and TV host Carson Daly.
Satellite radio bosses at SiriusXM set up a 24-hour marathon of Kasem’s American Top 40 countdowns upon hearing the news of his death.
The network’s vice-president of Music Programming, Kid Kelly, says, “Casey Kasem was the undisputed king of weekly music countdown shows and we will miss him… He was a positive, friendly companion on radio, delivering perfectly crafted information that tied real listeners to their favorite artists. We’ve been honored to carry his Countdowns on our 70s channel for years and we hope to continue; his voice and approach is one of a kind and generations of listeners have loved that he has been their musical guide.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with Kasem’s family and friends.