Casey Kasem passed away this past weekend. To today’s generation, his name means little, if they have heard of him at all. But as I commented upon recently, his was the voice that provided a few hours of what was the end all, be all authority of the songs that remain the “soundtrack” for the lives of millions of people. The radio program he founded in 1970, American Top 40, arrived at a time when music was never more eclectic or diverse, when “pop” music refused to die the death that music critics had predicted. On the AT40 countdown, songs that were popular all over the country, from different backgrounds, cultures, demographics and tastes found a home in one place. Even today, listening to the old shows, I still discover a gold nugget that I don’t recall ever hearing on the principle pop music stations I listened to in my youth.
I am left with my memories, but Casey deserved a better fate that he seems to have been given. It seems clear that although his health was long in decline, the petty “battle” over his person was unnecessary and no doubt brought him unhappiness, even if he was unable to make his views known because of his suffering from Lewy body disease—which in practice is a fully conscious mind inside an inanimate, rapidly deteriorating vessel. Casey had been living in a Santa Monica nursing home per the wishes by his second wife Jean Kasem. This lifestyle probably accelerated his demise, since many years immobile caused bed sores that likely became infected, leading to sepsis—essentially causing a “whole body” infection that was incurable. Casey was no doubt suffering from intense pain he could not communicate to anyone—especially to his wife, for whom his continued existence was essential (one may assumes) in maintaining her lavish lifestyle and control over his entire estate.
The battle over his care and even “visitation rights” by Jean Kasem and the children of Casey’s first wife had been an on-going circus. Just prior to his death, Kerri Kasem—who had been awarded conservatorship over his care—had taken custody of his person after Jean Kasem had essentially kidnapped him out of California to Kitsap County in the state of Washington, and placed him in a hospital for proper care. Casey—contrary to the “proper” care Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies described him as being before they were forced to take action after a local court ordered them to—was found to be in a near-death state.
A local judge agreed with Kerri Kasem’s request that he be taken off life support—in fact, in 2007 Casey had given his elder children power of attorney to end his life it meant using artificial “life sustaining procedures” that merely continued “biological existence” without “reasonable hope of normal functioning.” Jean Kasem rather irrationally convinced a California judge to reverse the decision and restore the life-supporting procedures, claiming that the children were trying to “kill” him. This is a curious accusation, since Jean Kasem is reportedly being investigated for “elder abuse,” and it has been reported that she probably insured his death by leaving him without nutritional support during the course of kidnapping him from the nursing home and transporting him to Washington--despite being warned by the staff that this would be dangerous for his health.
In the end, after reviewing the pertinent medical records, the judge reversed his decision and allowed Casey to pass away in peace. To the end, Casey was surrounded by the people who, in the end, most cared about him, those who knew him the longest; Jean Kasem refused to share his bedside with the “enemy.” Such was the sad end for a personality who meant a great deal to many of us of that age.