Patrick Gomez and Stephen M. Silverman
June 30, 2014 12:00 PM

Casey Kasem deserved a better countdown. For three generations he was America’s guide to popular music as host of Casey’s Top 40, Casey’s Hot 20 and American Top 40. But in his last weeks, he lay quietly in the hospital – silenced by Parkinson’s – as a bitter family feud (see box) continued to swirl. He finally succumbed to the disease on Father’s Day. “He is in a better place and no longer suffering,” his daughter Kerri Kasem wrote, announcing the news. “The world will miss Casey Kasem.”

Indeed, the Korean War veteran and son of Lebanese immigrant grocers seemed destined for fame. After finding his métier at Wayne State University, Kasem (whose real first name is Kemal) station-hopped for years until some B-movie biker roles led him to L.A. – and a syndicated countdown radio show by 1970. By decade’s end he was the most listened-to voice in America. “Casey had a distinctive, friendly on-air voice,” says American Idol‘s Ryan Seacrest, who took over for Kasem as host of the American Top 40 countdown radio show in 2004. “And he was just as affable and nice if you had the privilege to be in his company.”

Kasem’s family and close friends were preparing a private funeral in his honor (at press time), hopefully signaling the end of the rift between Kerri, Julie and Mike – his children from his first marriage to singer and actress Linda Myers – and Jean, his second wife of 33 years, with whom he has a daughter, Liberty. Such hard-fought peace would be fitting for a man who worked to be a better version of himself. Says Julie: “He always said, ‘No matter what you do, strive to be the best. If you’re going to be a chimney sweep, be the best darn chimney sweep in the world.'”

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