Casey Kasem, whose distinctive voice defined the interstitial sound of Top 40 radio for decades, has died. He was 82. The cause of death was not immediately released, though he had been ill for some time.
Kasem’s daughter Kerri tweeted the news Sunday morning, writing, “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.”
Kasem, born Kemal Amin Kasem to Lebanese immigrant parents in Detroit in 1932, began his radio career when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, working as a disc-jockey-announcer on the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network before returning to civilian life and taking DJ posts at stations in San Francisco and Oakland, California. After moving to Los Angeles, he began playing small supporting roles in a number of low-budget Hollywood films, and made his first forays into television voice-overs. That led to work on a number of animated shows, including the role of Shaggy on Scooby Doo, which he reprised in both films and on TV for five decades.
His voiceover work in commercials became synonymous with dozens of iconic American brand names over the years, including Ford, Sears, Heinz ketchup, Oscar Meyer, Red Lobster, Dairy Queen, Velveeta, Dairy Queen, A&P, Contintental Airlines and the California Raisin Advisory Board.
But it was his post as host of the weekly syndicated American Top 40 from 1970-1988 and again from 1998-2004 that would go on to become his most defining accomplishment. (In the intervening decade, he hosted a series of shows for another radio network, including Casey’s Top 40, Casey’s Hot 20, and Casey’s Countdown.) Every show — which interspersed the hits of the day with long-distance dedications, flashbacks, and spotlights on emerging artists — ended with his signature sign-off message: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”
“Basically, radio hasn’t changed over the years,” he once said. “Despite all the technical improvements, it still boils down to a man or a woman and a microphone, playing music, sharing stories, talking about issues—communicating with an audience.”
Kasem is survived by his wife, Jean Kasem, and four children.