Monday, June 16, 2014

Reaching for the Stars

I'd be remiss to not devote a post to a man whose voice was so omnipresent in my younger days. You may have heard that Casey Kasem passed away this weekend. He was 82.  The passing followed a long period of the former deejay's illness, and the very public fighting over his care between Kasem's wife of 30+ years, Jean, and his children from a prior marriage. The drama was thick in those final months; he even went missing for several days earlier this year.

Kasem was best known for his American Top 40 radio and T.V. programs.  His distinctive voice will never be duplicated. I spent many hours listening to those Billboard countdowns, even when my musical tastes slowly began to broaden in the 80s. He made them downright suspenseful at times. He was slick and professional, always compelling. Like the best radio voices, he, despite the polish, felt like a friend, taking directly to you.

Yes, he was an easy target for ridicule. I first heard his infamous rant back in the late 80s on Neil Rogers' talk show. Are you familiar? When that beloved voice quite unexpectedly and hilariously drops the professional sheen and heads straight for the locker room. A profanity laced tirade as he attempts to get through another of his "Long Distance Dedications".  The first time I heard it I was shocked and maybe even a little disappointed. But imagine having to repeat station IDs for countless AM and FM stations around the country, over and over and over. I bet you'd get frustrated too. It's tempting, but in honor of the late Kasem (and for good taste's sake) I will not link to any of the several uncensored spews you can find on YouTube and the like.  But they are a riot.

Kasem also lent his voice to many cartoon characters, most famously to Shaggy on Scooby Doo. I learned this well after I watched the program regularly.  It was fun to go back and hear my radio bud talking like a hippie. I also remember Casey's involvement with the Jerry Lewis telethons, also watched regularly throughout my childhood.

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