When I’m cruising around, because of my love for music, my radio is always on. However, is not always music I’m listening to. I also programmed in some comedy and news channels. I also listen to a couple of different podcasts as well. But mostly it’s music.
On the weekends, if I get lucky, I catch an episode of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. Of course, these episodes aren’t current, I don’t even think AT40 is still broadcast. But way back in those magical days, when I was in my adolescent and young adult years, it was part of my weekly routine. I’d listen to Casey as he counted down Billboard magazine’s Top 40 hits for the week.
A confession: Except for getting to hear a few songs I would record for later mix tape creation; I really didn’t care about the countdown. What I enjoyed most was Casey’s way of telling a story through long-distance dedications, trivia, and some of the back stories he provided on older music. Casey hosted the show from 1970 to 1988 and then after a ten-year absence, returned in 1998 until he and AT40 permanently parted ways in 2004.
I’ve been listening to AT40 for a long time, but I only realized recently that the bottom fifteen songs on the chart usually don’t move up. This is because of the way the charts mix of famous and lesser-known music. Either less than stellar songs solely occupied the lower part of the countdown by famous artists or new songs by people you’d never heard of. Upon that realization, it forced me to ask myself, should he have even bothered?
While on a recent trip, I was trapped with Casey’s show from start to finish. The show was from October 1979. Rather than flipping stations, I let it play uninterrupted from beginning to end. Since the show’s a countdown, he started with song number forty and worked his way up to song number one. This meant my first hour of listening were these barely known songs. At least to me.
Were they bad songs? No, not really -- they just lacked that commercial hook that would’ve made them eventually rise to the top. A few of them I recognized and at least one I could remember dancing to, but they weren’t those stellar songs that climbed to the top.
Were they worth listening to? Yes. Most definitely. They provided me with entertainment for at least an hour and at least one of them was significant enough to me I could match it against a life event. So, if those songs did not exist, things would’ve been a little less than. Personally, I like it when my life is more than.
Without realizing it, Casey made sure those songs gained ears even though they wouldn’t gain massive fame and fortune. Most songwriters, like writers, feel happiest when they entertain and share their words with an audience, not only when they earn money.
Here’s Casey’s final sign off.