Casey Kasem dies at age 82 - Our Tribute

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    Casey Kasem, the most famous disc jockey in America during the 1970s and 80s, has died at age 82 after a long illness. As the host of American Top 40, he was the friend who brought new music to a generation of fans every Sunday morning.  And as the voice of Shaggy in television's Scooby-Doo cartoons, he was an unheralded force behind one of the most popular children's shows ever.
     
    Kasem began his broadcasting career in the Army, before bringing it to several radio stations in the Midwest. But his big career break came when he moved to Los Angeles in 60s, working local radio there.
     
    In 1970, Kasem launched American Top 40, and grew it into a weekly must-hear program.
     
    Casey Kasem, the most famous disc jockey in America during the 1970s and 80s, has died at age 82 after a long illness. As the host of American Top 40, he was the friend who brought new music to a generation of fans every Sunday morning.  And as the voice of Shaggy in television's Scooby-Doo cartoons, he was an unheralded force behind one of the most popular children's shows ever.
     
    Kasem began his broadcasting career in the Army, before bringing it to several radio stations in the Midwest. But his big career break came when he moved to Los Angeles in 60s, working local radio there.
     
    In 1970, Kasem launched American Top 40, and grew it into a weekly must-hear program. His show not only counted down the top songs on the Billboard charts, it included special features that further connected him with listeners, especially the (often parodied) "Long Distance Dedication" -- a segment where a listener would dedicate a song to an important love or friend far away.  Kasem ended each show with what would become his tagline, "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars."
     
    When Kasem, then in his mid-50s, was replaced by the younger Shadow Stevens on AT40 in 1988, America revolted, abandoning the show and following Kasem to the new Casey's Top 40. He ultimately returned, triumphantly, to AT40, where he continued until his retirement in 2004 (succeeded by Ryan Seacrest). Kasem's classic 70s and 80s recordings continue to be played on XM Radio to this day.
     
    Over the years, Kasem received every major broadcasting award, and he became involved in a number of major charities, most notably the annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, which he hosted with Jerry Lewis for over a decade.
     
    As a teenager in Michigan who lived for music, for me Casey Kasem was everything: He grew up in Detroit as Kemal Amin Kasem, the son of Lebanese immigrants, and attended Wayne State University. And his first radio gig was in my hometown of Flint. In the early 80s, when my brothers and I, just out of college, considered a foray into radio, we wrote a letter to him asking for advice. To our surprise, we received a handwritten response from him, both encouraging us and warning us of the magnitude of the decision we were making.
     
    The last few years of Kasem's life were disheartening for those of us for whom he meant so much. Various illnesses, dementia and a bitter fight among family members led to nearly consistent tabloid fodder, with each story more outlandish than the one before.
     
    Now, as I reflect on Casey Kasem, I don't think of the sadness of these past few years. I think of the quintessential radio host for most of my life, who featured artists of nearly every stripe, from pop to R&B to disco to rock to country to hip hop. I think of Sunday mornings in high school and college glued to the radio no matter where I was or what I was doing, always discovering new songs and, with my friends, rooting for our artists to have climbed the chart in the past week. 
     
    As we experienced in the last two years with Don Cornelius and Dick Clark, today music fans have lost a great friend. A man who was an essential part of our musical youth, and someone whose work kept a generation "reaching for the stars." Godspeed, Casey Kasem.
     
    By Chris Rizik
     
     
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