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Monday
Jun162014

Casey Kasem, Longtime Voice of "American Top 40" Dead at 82

Victor Spinelli/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- One of American radio and TV's most familiar, and legendary, voices has been silenced.  Casey Kasem has died at the age of 82. He had been suffering for some time from Lewy body dementia, or LBD, an illness that resembles Alzheimer’s or Parkinson's disease.

On Father's Day, Sunday morning, Kerri Kasem, Casey's daughter from his first marriage, posted to her Twitter account that her father had passed away.

 



Kasem was known to generations of radio listeners as the voice of American Top 40, which aired from 1970 to 2009, first on radio -- on hundreds of U.S. radio stations, in numerous foreign countries and on U.S. Armed Forces Radio -- and later on television as well. One of the most popular features on the show were the "long distance dedications," in which Kasem read letters from people who wanted to share stories of longing and loss. He ended each countdown with his trademark sign-off, "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”

Kasem also hosted a number of American Top 40 spin-off shows, as well as his own name-branded countdown shows. In 2004, he handed the reins of American Top 40 to Ryan Seacrest.

In addition to his radio work, Kasem provided the voice of Shaggy in the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You! cartoon series.  He provided voices for other cartoons as well, mostly in the 1970s and early 1980s, including Josie & the Pussycats, Transformers, and SuperFriends.

The son of Lebanese immigrants, Kemal Amin Kasem was born in Detroit on April 27, 1932. He started his career in radio as a featured actor on The Lone Ranger.

In 2003, Kasem told ABC News he never intended to be a DJ: “I wanted to be a baseball player and an actor, but not a disc jockey. but as I remember, there's a fascination with people wanting to know what is number one.”

Casey Kasem was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981. He was inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1985 and the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1992. He's survived by his second wife, actress Jean Kasem; their daughter, Liberty Jean; and three children from a previous marriage.

Casey and Jean, best-known for her TV role as the bombshell Loretta Tortelli on Cheers, met in 1980 when he was 47 and she was 24.  They married in December of that year.

In 2013, a family dispute over the ailing Kasem's care became public when the three adult children from his previous marriage sought temporary conservatorship of their father. Julie Kasem, along with siblings Kerri, 41, and Mike, 40, claimed Jean Kasem was preventing them from seeing him.

A court upheld the validity of Jean Kasem's role as her husband's conservator and ordered both sides to work out a visitation agreement, but that didn't end the disagreement. In 2014, a California court granted Kerry Kasem conservatorship of her father, but she claimed he'd disappeared. After a court authorized an investigator to look for him, Kasem was found in Washington state, where Jean Kasem claimed they were vacationing.

Not long after that incident, a Washington court mandated that Kerri Kasem be given visitation once per day and be allowed to take her father to see a doctor. In a bizarre twist, when Kerri Kasem showed up at his Washington home with paramedics, Jean Kasem threw hamburger meat at her, and referenced a biblical verse about "throwing raw meat...to the rabid wild dogs." Once hospitalized, Casey Kasem was reportedly found to have had severe health problems, including infections and bed sores.

In June of 2014, a judge reversed a previous ruling and granted Kerri Kasem the authority to withhold food, water and certain medications from her ailing father, to avoid artificially prolonging his life. Jean Kasem's attorney objected, saying the ruling was based on an outdated request from Casey Kasem that stated he didn't want his life prolonged if he became mentally incapacitated. The attorney argued that Kasem was still capable of communicating non-verbally.  A few days later, Kasem passed away.


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