Remembering Casey Kasem


Aidin Vaziri | Mr. Kasem’s weekly pop music countdowns, which ran on hundreds of radio stations for almost four decades – usually on Sunday mornings – may have been built around insignificant pieces of band trivia, generic sound bites about chart positions and long-winded long-distance dedications, but they were always there.

From Mr. Kasem, we got comfort and we got information, long before the Internet began providing us with minute-by-minute rankings of everything in our culture, including pop music. Even as the songs – and the world at large – changed week after week, you could depend on him to be there to remind you, as he did at the end of every broadcast, to “keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!”

Part of Mr. Kasem’s appeal was that he always sounded a generation or two removed from the moment – in his pullover sweaters, tidily groomed hair and mildly upbeat intonations, he was a throwback to a more genteel time, a fatherly figure detached from the unwholesomeness of real life that was often depicted in the songs between his restrained segues – a kind of Lebanese American Dick Clark, if you will.

He hosted his first “American Top 40” program on July 4, 1970, crowning “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” by Three Dog Night as his first No. 1 hit. His last countdown was in 2009, with Shinedown’s “Second Chance” making the top of that final list. Along the way, he took sidesteps into other categories, such as an adult contemporary countdown and the spinoff “Casey’s Top 40.” Before MTV made it on air, Mr. Kasem hosted “America’s Top 10” on television, helping to popularize music videos. But the format and the host never wavered.

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