It’s too bad that the last few weeks of his life were lived out in the tabloids, but I’m sure that in time the family drama will be a mere footnote compared to the huge amount of positive energy and happiness he brought to the world. Casey Kasem died today–in a sad irony, on Father’s Day–at age 82.
Like many musicians, when I first started out I had dreams of stardom which often included playing in front of masses of adoring fans. However, being somewhat of a nerd, I was also interested in the statistical side of the music business, such as how records did on the chart each week. Just as I imagined myself playing stadiums, I also imagined Kasem reading my name off on a Top 40 countdown. (As it would turn out, while I kept “reaching for the stars”, I never really embraced the first half of Kasem’s signature sign-off, quickly getting tired of “keeping my feet on the ground” and never being willing to pay the dues required of stardom.)
At the risk of sounding elderly, there was something exciting about listening to Kasem’s countdowns on the radio each Sunday morning. It’s nice to have worlds of information at our fingertips these days, but having to wait for the countdown–back then the only way to learn what the new #1 single of the week would be–made it seem like an event. Kasem saw stories in the charts; he made his listeners emotionally invest in whether “Good Thing” out-performed “Toy Soldiers.” His first AT40 countdown marked the last time the Beatles and Elvis shared the top 10; his last featured No Doubt, Nickelback and Outkast. Through all of the musical and cultural changes that happened during his career, he was able to connect with his audiences.