LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Legendary broadcaster Casey Kasem has died following months of declining health and a bitter family battle over his care and treatment, according to a family spokesperson. He was 82.
He passed away at 3:23 a.m. Sunday at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Gig Harbor, Washington.
His eldest children, Kerri, Mike and Julie, issued the following statement: “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.”
Kasem had been in failing health for some time.
In his heyday, from 1970 through his retirement in 2009, Kasem — born Kemal Amin Kasem — had one of the most distinct and recognized voices in broadcasting.
He hosted several successful coast-to-coast radio shows including “American Top 40,” “American Top 20” and “American Top 10.” Those shows were known for highlighting up-and-coming artists as well as a schmaltzy “Long Distance Dedication” usually with a caller suggesting a song in memory of a lost or distant love.
He ended each broadcast with the line every imitator would do when performing a Kasem impersonation — “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
For decades, the Detroit-born Kasem was also the cartoon voice of “Shaggy” Rogers in the “Scooby-Doo” franchise. It was no coincidence that Shaggy and Kasem were both ardent vegetarians.
Kasem also lent his voice to a variety of cartoons like “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” the “Transformers,” “Josie and the Pussycats,” as well as the promo voice for NBC television. Kasem also did commercials for Oscar Mayer, Ford, Velveeta, Heinz ketchup, Sears, Dairy Queen, Raid and Chevron, to name just a few.
Through the 80s and early 90s, it would have been next to impossible to go an entire day without hearing his voice in some form or another.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Kasem worked in radio from the early 50s. He worked all over the country in cities like Flint, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio and for six years (1963-1969) in Los Angeles.
Kasem was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 27, 1981 — his 49th birthday. He made the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the National Radio Hall of Fame seven years later.
A longtime liberal, Kasem also narrated political spots for candidates he liked including George McGovern, Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader.
Kasem was married to bit actress Linda Myers from 1972-79. The couple had three children, Julie, Kerri and Mike.
On December 21, 1980, Kasem married actress Jean Kasem, then best known for a stint as Loretta Tortelli on “Cheers,” the resident dumb blonde. “The Tortellis'” (NBC 1987) was later spun off into a short-lived sitcom. He and Jean, now 60, had a daughter, Liberty in 1990.
By October 2013, Kasem’s children by Myers, Kasem’s brother and a business associate all protested outside the Kasem home saying that Jean wouldn’t let any of them see Casey. The group took their feud public after saying they had been rebuffed in efforts to see Kasem for three months.
Around this time it was revealed Kasem was living with Parkinson’s disease which robbed him, ironically, of the ability to speak. Jean insisted that Casey did not want his loved ones to see him in a declining state.
In May 2014, Jean told a judge that Casey was no longer in the United States but he turned up several days later in Washington state.
On June 6, a Washington state court recognized the legal rights of Kasem’s eldest children to see their father and gave daughter Kerri full conservator control of his affairs.
Julie Kasem said at that time, “My Dad taught us that family comes first. We want to honor him and make sure all of his family, including Jean and Liberty are surrounding him with love at this critical time.”
The court concluded Wednesday that Kasem would endure more pain if he was given food or fluids and ruled Kerri had the authority to withhold food and fluids from her ailing father.
Radio personalities and pop culture analysts across the country took to Twitter to honor Kasem’s impact on their careers.
Ryan Seacrest says the death of his radio role model is a loss for radio listeners worldwide. Seacrest, who took over the countdown from Kasem in 2004, 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.”
Some tweets invoked Kasem’s famous tagline, suggesting his passing has placed him a little closer to the stars.