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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Casey Kasem, 82, died on Sunday. His "American Top 40" was heard on thousands of radio stations. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Kasem remembered for kind voice, inspiring others


If you ever have the chance to chat with anyone working in radio, especially on air, then you know of some of the people who were huge influences on the industry. The world lost one of the greats with the passing of Casey Kasem.

His "American Top 40" would countdown the top songs of the time, and was the show that spoke to generations with Kasem mixing in stories between the songs. He'd share the stories of where bands and artists came from, and what helped in their stardom. At his peak, the "American Top 40" was on more than 1,000 stations across the country.

Kasem, 82, who has been a fixture in recent headlines, suffered from Lewy body dementia. His children from his first marriage were in a legal battle over Kasem's health care with his second wife, Jean. The battle for the man's health and legacy will probably continue, but as least the long-time disc jockey won't be around to have to hear it.

Instead, I like to think of some of the simpler times that Kasem would do voice work, like being Shaggy on the Scooby-doo cartoons. Kasem said his work as Shaggy would be around for much longer than he was. He also did the voice of Robin on "Batman" and "Superfriends" cartoons. When Batman and Robin would make a guest appearance on "Scooby-Doo," Kasem would have to do double duty.

On "American Top 40," his long-distance dedications would share stories of lost love, or longing – sure, some of the music choices for the dedications were terrible, but one could not ignore the emotion Kasem would put in his voice when he read the story every week.

Ryan Seacrest took over "American Top 40" for Kasem in 2004.

"When decades later I took over his AT40 countdown show, it was a surreal moment," Seacrest said in a statement. "Casey had a distinctive friendly on-air voice, and he was just as affable and nice if you had the privilege to be in his company. He'll be greatly missed by all of us."

I have fond memories of listening to Kasem on the Sunday morning broadcast on the then WKTI-FM 94.5. He always seemed to be there, sharing the songs I wanted to hear that were popular in the mid-1980s. Looking back on some of the music that made it in his Top 40, some of it is terrible when compared to stronger songs written since then.

Whether it was rock, soul, dance, disco, rap, grunge or anything in between, they all found a home with Kasem. And I think that's the trait all of those that were on a mic then and in the future want – to make the listeners and the artists all feel at home.

As he would say, "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

Indeed.

R.I.P.

DUAL SCREENS: Soccer fans from around the world will be tuned into the World Cup this week. When surveyed, around 74 percent of those who said they would tune in to TV said they will also be on social media when they watch.

That is a boon for larger firms that send part of its media budget on digital ads. That means that all of us who are on social media will be bombarded with more ads, no matter if we watch soccer or not. For those that have identified themselves as soccer fans, they will be flooded by the ads.

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