“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
April 27, 2021
For anyone who was a teenager in the 1970’s, these words were said by the one person who – each week – united millions of baby boomers.
That person was Kasey Kasem, born April 27, 1932.
For those who are younger than about 40, you can be forgiven for not knowing WHO Kasey Kasem was. But for the rest of us he was the voice of American Top 40, a weekly radio countdown show which began in the summer of 1970.
Kasem began his career in radio, but branched out to pursue acting. He only found limited success in television and movie roles. It was his distinctive voice, however, which catapulted him to fame.
From the ever Infallible Wikipedia:
“Kasem acted in a number of low-budget movies and radio drama. While hosting “dance hops” on local television, he attracted the attention of Dick Clark, who hired him as co-host of a daily teenage music show called Shebang, starting in 1964. Kasem’s roles on network TV series included Hawaii Five-O and Ironside In 1967, he appeared on The Dating Game, and played the role of “Mouth” in the motorcycle gang film The Glory Stompers. In 1969, he played the role of Knife in the film Wild Wheels, and had a small role in another biker movie, The Cycle Savages, starring Bruce Dern and Melody Patterson, and The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (also with Dern).
Kasem’s voice was the key to his career. In 1964 during the Beatlemania craze, Kasem had a minor hit single called “Letter from Elaina”, a spoken-word recording that told the story of a girl who met George Harrison after a San Francisco Beatles concert. At the end of the 1960s, he began working as a voice actor. In 1969, he started one of his most famous roles, the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! He also voiced the drummer Groove from The Cattanooga Cats that year.”
The creation of American Top 40 – which he devised in collaboration with three other individuals – is what made him a household name. He was the on-air voice of the program for the next 18 years.
For many Baby Boomers, Kasem was like a friend we’d never met or an older brother. None of us probably realized he was of our parents’ generation. He seemed to ‘get’ us and our music.
When he left AT40 in 1988 it was due to a contract dispute. He then created a competing countdown known as Kasey’s Top 40.
He later regained an ownership interest in AT40, once again doing the countdown for several years. Additionally, he continued his voice acting work well into his late 70’s.
By the fall of 2013, it became known that Kasem was suffering from either Parkinson’s disease or Lewy Body Dementia (it’s unclear which it was). From then until his death in June 2014, a fight over his care erupted between his second wife and his children from his first marriage; the travails of that fight spilled into the pages of the tabloid press for the next six months.
It would have been exactly the sort of story he would have shared on AT40; one filled with conflict and intrigue, definitely tabloid worthy.
I think, perhaps, it was his storytelling ability which was most compelling. He ferreted out interesting facts about the musical artists, the songs, and songwriters and you could tell he was truly interested in what he was sharing. This, to me, is much like writing Tuesday Newsday each week as great part of the enjoyment of writing is in researching and learning new things.
Despite the rather messy situation at the end of his life, I think Kasem filled his years doing what he loved. There is no better way, in my opinion, to live one’s life except to find and pursue the thing which brings you joy and fulfillment. Certainly he faced challenges – just like all of us – but on whole it would seem that his chosen path led him to the top of the charts . We should all be so lucky to live such a life.
Answer to the Facebook question is for the other three besides the ATF photo, are all voice characters of Casey Kasem: Shaggy, Robin, Cliffjumper