It's been a rough couple of days for celebrity deaths (Tony Gwynn?? No...) and it's good to see that Kasem is getting the respect he deserved in death, seeing as the end of his life appears to have been anything but pleasant. His family feuding over his estate and his wife allegedly holding a senile Kasem prisoner in their home will hopefully be forgotten -- a sad end to one of the great lives in pop music history.
Chris Molanphy captures the essence of Kasem perfectly in his piece for Slate. It's true, he unashamedly loved pop, even when it wasn't exactly popular to do so. Chart nerds could salivate over how he'd phrase a dramatic jump from #5 to #3, making it sound like a titanic newsworthy event without hardly ever raising his tone of voice. I grew up watching "America'sTop 40" on TV every Saturday and rediscovered Kasem (in a way) on radio in the late 80's when I would listen to the countdown in full nearly every week. I listened to and recorded his broadcast of the top chart songs of the 1980's and relistened to it incessantly in the 90's, it was one of my personal all time favourite radio moments.
As Molanphy explains, Kasem's true talent was that he was a storyteller who rarely came across as a hype-fueled DJ paid by record companies to plug the week's most popular music. He humanized the artists in a way that DJ's and even many journalists rarely do, and his stories were so vivid I could often picture myself in the room while the music was being created.