Casey Kasem, best known as a radio broadcaster who counted down the “Top 40” pop hits for four decades, died today at 82. A vegan and critic of factory farming, he was also the voice of Shaggy on the Scooby-Doo cartoon — a character known for his insatiable appetite.
Kasem quit the show in 1995 when he was asked to voice Shaggy for a Burger King commercial. He would not agree to return until 2002, when producers agreed to have Shaggy become a vegetarian. Shaggy, according to reports, was the first cartoon character to follow a vegetarian diet.
Kasem was ahead of his time in voicing concern for the environmental impacts of agribusiness. In a 1997 USA Today interview, he said “There are 5 million acres of rain forest in Central and South America that are cut down every year for cattle pastures…Most of the grain that we grow goes for animals, and that affects our topsoil. Also, animal agriculture is the biggest contributor to water pollution that we have.”
He also explained his decision to go vegetarian by citing his desire for a peaceful world, saying “the basic thing is to hopefully stop people from killing anything. And to create a non-violent diet for themselves, because a non-violent world has roots in a non-violent diet.”
In many ways, Kasem was a political activists first and a radio personality second. According to a 1990 report, he devoted “four days a week…to political and humanitarian causes” and just one to his radio show. He was also an anti-nuclear activist and an advocate for the homeless.
Kasem was “more likely to be listening to a speech by Malcolm X on his cassette player than music by Miami Sound Machine,” according to a 1989 profile in the LA Times. The Rev. Jesse Jackson performed his first wedding ceremony and Kasem took credit for convincing Jackson to run for President.
But Kasem knew his most permanent legacy would be as the voice of “Shaggy” on Scooby-Doo, one of the most popular cartoons of all time. In 2004, in told the New York Times “They are going to be playing Shaggy and Scooby-Doo for eons and eons. And they’re going to forget Casey Kasem…”