Casey Kasem, king of the Top 40 countdown, dead

2014-06-16T01:00:00Z Casey Kasem, king of the Top 40 countdown, deadThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 16, 2014 1:00 am  • 

Casey Kasem, the internationally famous radio broadcaster with the cheerful manner and gentle voice who became the king of the top 40 countdown with a syndicated show that ran for decades, died Sunday. He was 82.

Danny Deraney, publicist for Kasem's daughter, Kerri, says Kasem died Sunday morning. A statement issued by the family says he died at 3:23 a.m. surrounded by family and friends.

Kasem's "American Top 40" began on July 4, 1970, in Los Angeles. The No. 1 song on his list then was "Mama Told Me Not to Come," by Three Dog Night.

The show continued in varying forms — and for varying syndicators — until his retirement in 2009. In his signoff, he would tell viewers: "And don't forget: keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

In recent years, Kasem was trapped in a feud between his three adult children and his second wife, former actress Jean Kasem. In 2013, his children filed a legal petition to gain control of his health care, alleging that Kasem was suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease and that his wife was isolating him from friends and family members. Kasem also suffered from Lewy Body Disease, a form of dementia.

A judge in May temporarily stripped his wife of her caretaker role after she moved him from a medical facility in Los Angeles to a friend's home in Washington state. Jean Kasem said she moved her husband to protect his privacy and to consult with doctors. Casey Kasem developed a severe bedsore while in Washington and was in critical condition by the time he was hospitalized in early June.

It was a sad, startling end for a man whose voice had entertained and informed music lovers worldwide.

Kasem's "American Top 40" began on July 4, 1970, in Los Angeles, when the No. 1 song was Three Dog Night's cover of Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not to Come." The show expanded to hundreds of stations, including Armed Forces Radio, and continued in varying forms — and for varying syndicators — into the 21st century. He stepped down from "American Top 40" in 2004 and retired altogether in 2009, completing his musical journey with Shinedown's "Second Chance."

While many DJs convulsed their listeners with stunts and "morning zoo" snarkiness, Kasem would read "long distance dedications" of songs sent in by readers and introduce countdown records with sympathetic background anecdotes about the singers.

"The idea from the beginning was to do the type of thing on radio that Ed Sullivan did on television, good, honest stories with human interest," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1975.

Succeeding him at the main "American Top 40" show in 2004 was multiplatform star Ryan Seacrest, who has said he had been a fan of Kasem since boyhood and would imitate him in pretend countdown broadcasts at age 9.

Kasem's legacy reached well beyond music. His voice was heard in TV cartoons such as "Scooby-Doo" (he was Shaggy) and in numerous commercials.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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