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.
"Early this Father's Day morning, our dad Casey Kasem passed away surrounded by family and friends," his daughter, Kerri Kasem, said in a statement posted online. "Even though we know he is in a better place and no longer suffering, we are heartbroken."
He passed away at a hospital in Gig Harbor, Wash.
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Kemal Amin (Casey) Kasem was born in Detroit in 1932 to Lebanese parents. He first dipped into radio during his school days, as a sportscaster for his high school radio station and by landing acting roles in radio dramas while studying at Wayne State University.
Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952,he worked on the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network as an announcer and both coordinating and acting in radio dramas. He began building his professional radio career in the mid-1950s in Flint, Mich.and honed his knowledge of rock trivia and his storytelling style during stints at radio stations in California during the early1960s.
Though known for his trademark easy-going, comforting and knowledgeable hosting style, Kasem was also a perfectionist, which led to some famed off-air displays of temper — examples of which still make the rounds on YouTube. Regardless, he was beloved by countless radio listeners.
Kerri Kasem and her brother and sister, the American Top 40 host's children from his first marriage, chose to transition Kasem back to comfort-oriented, end-of-life care at a Washington state hospital where he had been in hospice care.
Kasem launched American Top 40 on July 4, 1970. He retired from radio exactly 39 years later, on July 4, 2009. Though his syndicated countdown show was influential and broadcast by radio stations around the globe, in an interview about his retirement, Kasem said he expected to be remembered for another part of his resumé.
"They are going to be playing Shaggy and Scooby-Doo for eons and eons, and they're going to forget Casey Kasem- unlessthey happen to step on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame," he told the New York Times. "I'll be one of those guys people say 'Who's that?' about. And someone else will say, 'He's just some guy who used to be on the radio.'"
Media personality Ryan Seacrest, who took over the countdown from Kasem in 2009, said in a statement that as a child he'd listen to Kasem's show every weekend "and dream about someday becoming a radio DJ."
"When decades later I took over his AT40 countdown show, it was a surreal moment," Seacrest said. "Casey had a distinctive friendly on-air voice, and he was just as affable and nice if you had the privilege to be in his company. He'll be greatly missed by all of us."
Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. We’ll miss you, Casey. pic.twitter.com/cxYhONfrqz— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) June 15, 2014
Inducted into U.S. National Association of Broadcasters' Radio Hall of Fame in 1992, Kasem also became the first recipient of Billboard magazine's lifetime achievement award in 1997. In 2013, a feud between members of Kasem's family, friends and his second wife, Jean, erupted publicly outside of the couple's home in Los Angeles.
Battle with Jean Kasem
Three of his children, his brother and several of Kasem's close friends attempted to gain entrance to visit the ailing former radio host. They staged a protest outside the home and accused Jean, Kasem's wife of 30 years and a former television actress, of cutting them off from seeing or speaking to him.
The situation worsened in May 2014, when Kasem's children reported him missing. Days later, Kasem was located near Seattle, where he and Jean were staying with friends
Shortly after, a Washington state judge ruled Kasem must remain in the state, and that daughter Kerri should have regular visits with him. Jean criticized the decision, telling KING-TV she was "not going to allow anybody to shred (her) family based on unfounded facts and malicious accusations."
Kerri Kasem had told the judge her father was suffering from serious bedsores along with lung and bladder infections. On June 6, Kasem was admitted to hospital in Port Orchard, Wash., with a serious pressure ulcer and was listed in critical condition. Another Washington State judge gave Kerri Kasem control over his care, but in a statement released the same day she warned he "won't be with us much longer."
Kasem is survived by his wife Jean, their daughter Liberty, and three children, Kerri, Mike and Julie, from a previous marriage to Linda Myers.