has died at 82 after a long, tragic and very public struggle with both family drama and debilitating illness at a hospital in Gig Harbor, WA—ironically enough, on Father's Day. Miami Herald
columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.
, one of my favorite pundits, is one of the few media figures writing about Kasem's life, career and death from a perspective of personal first-hand experience, having worked for the man for two years. His remembrance is here
...and you can read about the nationally syndicated radio show that made his name a household word in this book
Casey's distinctive voice was part of the soundtrack of my childhood and adolescence from almost as far back as I was capable of listening to radio and watching TV; he recorded a plethora of voices for characters on animated cartoon TV shows in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, of which Scooby-Doo's stoner pal Shaggy was only the most famous; he also was the voice of Batman's sidekick Robin in the various incarnations of Super Friends
, and even played the Hobbit Merry in Rankin-Bass' serviceable animated adaptation of Tolkien's The Return of the King
(long before Peter Jackson
got his mitts on it). But it was as host of the seminal radio countdown show American Top 40
that he made the largest impact on me; I listened religiously every week when I lived within broadcast range of a station carrying it to see how the day's pop and rock singles moved up and down the chart, hear Casey tell background stories about the people who sang them, and listen to his admittedly sometimes schmaltzy "Long Distance Dedications" from listeners all over the USA and around the world (his show was carried on Armed Forces Radio, so he got a lot of requests from service personnel at forward bases). For awhile I even kept written lists of the songs on each show and their movements...even after he left the show and Ryan Seacrest
added hosting it to his ever-growing list of jobs. Along with the late Dick Clark
, Casey kept his finger on the pulse of popular music even long after it would seem to have passed his generation by.
He was also a tireless activist for a number of causes dear to my own heart, including affordable housing, environmentalism and animal rights, and against stereotyping and maltreatment of Arab-Americans in and out of show business—a cause which sadly has only gotten more important, not less, in the decade and change since 9/11. And he backed Democratic candidates from Jesse Jackson
to Dennis Kuchinich
in several Presidential races, with his name, his time, his wealth and his talent.
My heart broke to read stories of the dissension between members of his family as he got older and sicker, and the news of his death came almost as a mercy after all of this. Deepest sympathies nonetheless to them all, including second wife Jean
and his three children; to all who knew and loved and worked with him or were colleagues; and to his many fans, in whose number Your Humble still unabashedly counts himself...and to the man himself, a heartfelt "thank you" for decades of entertainment and the hope his soul is finally at peace.