Old memories are the best

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Some of us aren’t young anymore. Sure, we’re a powerful demographic when it comes to buying things, but these days, we’re courted by AARP, not the good-looking guy who just made that iced latte at Starbucks.

We might be horrified with what passes in some circles as reliable journalism (oh, hey, TMZ) these days. We appreciate the hundreds of television and radio options out there and are still amazed that not only are mobile phones these tiny marvels you could never imagine being without, but you can also watch TV shows on them.

Yes, we are old. Well, older.

You kids get off my lawn, dammit!

OK, not that old.

But old enough to remember “American Top 40.”

Casey Kasem is dying, very publicly, having been thrust into the spotlight due to a feud between his wife of 34 years, Jean, and Mr. Kasem's children. The Kasem children, led by daughter Kerri, forced a court battle over care for their father, 82, who suffers from a form of dementia, Lewy body disease. He can no longer walk or talk.

The children claim Mrs. Kasem has prohibited them from visiting or caring for their father, to the detriment of his health. He now is to the point of no return, they say, and should die with dignity. Recently, a judge ruled in favor of Mr. Kasem's offspring, who say they are following the instructions of his 2007 request never to be kept alive through artificial means.

The court decision to remove his feeding tube came Wednesday.

How sad the last months of Casey Kasem, who brought such joy to multitudes with his “AT40” weekly program, should be turned into tabloid fodder. This is why it’s not just a nice meander down Memory Lane — we are, apparently, old enough to use that phrase without irony — but a comforting reminder that Mr. Kasem helped bring together generations of pop music fans in a way no longer possible.

Mr. Kasem (born Kemal Amin Kasem) created the syndicated program with producer Don Bustany in 1970. It began airing Billboard’s top of the charts on seven stations and would eventually get picked up by more than 100, also broadcasting on Armed Forces Radio and the Voice of America.

We all listened to “AT40.” Besides being a three-hour potpourri of the latest trends in music and anecdotes about the artists, many of us were suckers for those long-distance dedications. “AT40” had its original run from July 4, 1970, to Aug. 6, 1988, an era that began with its musical roots tinged with the warts-and-all realism of the late ’60s, then it skipped into disco, and evolved into video-ready glam rock. Eventually, mainstream hip-hop would join the mix.

With no Internet, the show was sort of an audio recap of what America was listening to, what you were probably listening to. Yes, it was painfully mainstream; there was no niche programming here. But it was also genius.

It would honor Mr. Kasem if we didn’t focus on what might be the last, sad days of a legendary voice. The man who signed off with “keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars” is worth remembering for summer days, spent digging weeds in the backyard with “Thriller” in the air. Driving to pick up a date, “Two Out of Three Ain't Bad” playing on the dashboard.

Will anyone spare such fond memories for Iggy Azalea someday? Yes, we are older, but having grown up listening to Mr. Kasem and “on with the countdown,” we are the better for it.

Maria Sciullo is a Post-Gazette staff writer (msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciullo).


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