Tragic news this Father's Day in Fresno and all over the world as Casey Kasem, radio icon, actor and humanitarian, passed away today at age 82.
As reported by Anthony MacCartney of AOL.com, the announcement was made by Danny Deraney, publicist for Kasem's daughter, Kerri. According to a statement issued by the family, he died at 3:23 a.m. surrounded by family and friends:
"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."
Recently, Kasem has been 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 had also suffered from Lewy Body Disease, a form of dementia.
In May, a judge had 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. Mrs. Jean Kasem said she moved her husband in order to protect his privacy and to consult with doctors. While in Washington Kasem developed a severe bedsore and was in critical condition by the time he was hospitalized in early June. In recent days, Kasem children chose to take their father off of life support, in accordance with a document he had signed in 2007 and a judge's ruling, though in defiance of he wishes of his wife Jean.
Despite these tragic final days, Kasem's legacy is one that will not soon be forgotten by fans and music lovers alike.
Kasem's iconic radio show "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. Kasem stepped down from hosting the show in 2004 and retired altogether in 2009, completing his musical journey with Shinedown's "Second Chance."
One of Kasem's trademarks was how he approached his DJ duties, by reading "long distance dedications" of songs sent in by readers and introduce countdown records with sympathetic background anecdotes about the singers. As he told the Los Angeles Times in 1975, "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."
Incidentally, Kasem's successor 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 even imitate him in pretend countdown broadcasts at age 9.
But Kasem's legacy reached well beyond music. His voice was heard in TV cartoons, most famously as Shaggy in Scooby-Doo, and in numerous commercials. "They are going to be playing Shaggy and Scooby-Doo for eons and eons," Kasem told The New York Times in 2004. "And they're going to forget Casey Kasem - unless they happen to step on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 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.'"
As the son of Lebanese immigrants, Kasem was active in speaking out for greater understanding of Arab-Americans - both on political issues involving the Mideast and on arts and media issues. As he told The Associated Press in 1990, "Arab-Americans are coming out of the closet. They are more outspoken now than ever before. People are beginning to realize who they really are, that they are not the people who yell and scream on their nightly newscast."
Kasem was born Kemal Amin Kasem in 1932 in Detroit. He began his broadcasting career in the radio club at Detroit's Northwestern High School and was soon given a job as a disc jockey on WJBK radio in Detroit, initially calling himself Kemal Kasem.
When asked in a 1997 visit with high school students in Dearborn, Michigan, why he changed his name to Casey, Kasem said, "It didn't sound like a deejay; it wasn't hip. So we decided I'd be `Casey at the Mike' - and I have been since."
In the 1975 Los Angeles Times interview, he said he had been doing "a regular screaming DJ show" in San Francisco in the early 1960s when his boss suggested he talk about the records instead. Although he was unconvinced at first, since his screaming routine had brought him top ratings, Kasem said that he had learned "after a particularly unpleasant situation in Buffalo never to argue with general managers."
Kasem will long be remembered and loved by family, friends and fans all over the world. As he would so often tell his viewers: "And don't forget: keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."