WASHINGTON - Casey Kasem, the US radio personality who counted down pop music hits on his popular weekly radio show and also lent his distinctive voice to hippie sleuth Shaggy in the "Scooby Doo" cartoons, died on Sunday. He was 82.
"Early this Father's Day morning, our dad Casey Kasem passed away surrounded by family and friends," his daughter, Kerri Kasem, said in a statement posted online. "Even though we know he is in a better place and no longer suffering, we are heartbroken."
Kasem, whose final years were marked by dementia, had been the focus of a dispute between his three children from his first marriage and his second wife, Jean Kasem. They said she had prevented them from visiting him as he suffered from Lewy body dementia, a malady with symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease.
As his health deteriorated, a Los Angeles judge sided with the adult children and permitted them to withhold food, hydration and his usual medication as they chose comfort-oriented, end-of-life care at a Washington state hospital.
'REACHING FOR THE STARS'
"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars," Kasem, a Detroit-born Lebanese-American, told millions of listeners at the end of his invariably cheery weekly radio programme, which ran from 1970 to 2009.
On his syndicated show, Kasem counted down the 40 most popular songs of the week in order, finishing with the No. 1 song. Before each song, Kasem told an upbeat anecdote about the singer's road to success and read letters from listeners.
At its peak, Kasem's American Top 40 show was heard on more than 1,000 stations in about 50 countries. "I accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. That is the timeless thing," Kasem told the New York Times in 1990.
There was an immediate outpouring on Twitter from both fans and celebrities. "We've lost a music industry icon. Chngd the industry w/AT40 Cntdwn. RIP Casey Kasem," said singer and actress Marie Osmond.
Motley Crue base player Nikki Sixx said, "RIP Casey Kasem who inspired all of us in radio & turned millions of people onto music. Sending love to Kerri Kasem, family and friends." Television personality Carson Daly passed along his condolences over Twitter. "Long before MTV and the internet, Casey Kasem made sure you were hearing the best music out there. Peace be to his family and RIP," he tweeted.
Ryan Seacrest, who now hosts American Top 40, said it was a sad day for the broadcasting community and for radio listeners around the world. "He'll be greatly missed by all of us,"Seacrest said in a statement on his website.