Monday, June 16, 2014

Casey Kasem: 1932 - 2014


by Larry Simons
June 16, 2014

Yesterday, on Father's Day, radio legend Casey Kasem, who is best known as host of the long-running American Top 40, lost his battle with a particular form of dementia known as Lewy Body disease. He was 82.

Instead of the traditional tribute in which I would normally list the accomplishments of the departed, I wish this to be more personal because Casey Kasem, unlike many of the celebrities I pay tribute to on my blog, actually influenced my life.

Music is a huge part of my life. But it wasn't just the actual music I was interested in. I became infatuated with the facts and figures of who was behind the music: the songwriters, the producers, the year the song came out, what album a song was released from, etc. Casey Kasem played a huge role in that.

Because of my strong interest in his radio show American Top 40, I began my own personal journals of my favorite music and I have been doing it since late 1981. It's a fun hobby and they make great time pieces for music.

Kasem began the American Top 40 program on July 4, 1970 and his last broadcast for reporting the Billboard singles chart was in 1988. One has to imagine that Kasem had to love this era of music. You simply cannot perform a profession unless you have a love for the very material you're covering. My point is, Kasem made you love the era as well. He gave pop music validation. It was official because Casey Kasem's stamp of approval was on it, even if you hated the fact that "Billy, Don't Be A Hero" or "Rock Me Amadeus" reached #1. You were back in front of the radio next week, listening to see if it was dethroned.

Every Saturday from early 1982 to mid 1986, from 9am to 1pm I was there listening to Casey count down the songs. He made me appreciate not just the music more, but the facts behind the musicians. Kasem's influence even followed me to college where I portrayed him in a skit.

He will be truly missed by generations of music lovers who appreciate music and beyond the music, the chart positions, the stories behind the song, the histories of the performers and the love for music itself.

I have always said, Dick Clark made stars, Casey Kasem validated them and made you keep reaching for them.

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