Casey Kasem, who has died aged 82, was a man who never claimed to love rock 'n' roll but who nevertheless built a long and lucrative career from it, hosting one of radio's most popular syndicated pop music shows, American Top 40.
The show, which first aired in the summer of 1970, was a four-hour feast of homey sentiment and American optimism totally at variance with the spirit of rebellion dominating the music culture of the day.
But the format struck a chord. Only five radio stations carried the show on its debut, but within a year more than 100 did, and by the mid-’70s it had reached nearly 1,000 outlets – “coast-to-coast”, as Kasem liked to say.
Kasem was born in Detroit to Lebanese parents Amin and Helen Kasem. After graduating from Wayne State University, he worked in local radio, produced broadcasts for the Armed Forces Network and then landed in Los Angeles, at KRLA, where he developed his trademark of introducing records with historical tidbits about the artists.
Kasem’s was known for his heartfelt readings of listeners’ song dedications, wholesome anecdotes about the lives of the pop stars, and an endless store of solid, if cringe-inducing, pieces of advice, like his touchstone signoff: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
He had always wanted to be a movie actor but never had much success beyond cameo roles, though he did become the voice of Shaggy the dog in the Scooby-Doo cartoon.
Kasem liked to picture people listening to his show as a family while going to a religious service: “I feel good that you can be going to synagogue or church and listen to me, and nobody is going to be embarrassed by the language that I use, the innuendo. Quite frankly, I think we’re good for America.” He is survived by his wife, Jean, and children Liberty, Julie, Michael and Kerri.