x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Casey Kasem: the voice of a generation

The popular disc jockey was proud of his Lebanese heritage and celebrated the achievements of other Arab Americans.

Popular disc jockey and proud Arab American Casey Kasem. Steve Marcus / Reuters
Popular disc jockey and proud Arab American Casey Kasem. Steve Marcus / Reuters

People of a certain generation will fondly remember Casey Kasem, who died this week at 82. His face may not have been familiar, but his voice was heard around the world – including in the UAE – on the long-running syndicated radio show American Top 40, which first aired in 1970. He was also the voice of Shaggy in the popular cartoon series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?

What many people will not know is that Kasem’s given name was Kemal Amin, and that he was a proud Arab American whose parents left Lebanon for a new life in the US. Apart from his success as a DJ – he is credited with being the first announcer to introduce songs with trivia about the artist – he also supported the Arab American Institute (AAI).

Kasem wrote an AAI brochure, Arab Americans: Making A Difference, that highlights the achievements of notable Arab Americans ranging from music stars Shakira and Frank Zappa to actor Jamie Farr, sportsman Doug F­lutie, writer Khalil Gibran and US presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Sadly, Kasem’s final years were marked by debilitating illness and a bitter dispute between his second wife and his children. But for many people worldwide, he will be the man who first played the songs that became the soundtrack to their lives.