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Casey Kasem: 4 Decades of the Top 40

AP Photo / Eric Jamison

Casey Kasem: 4 Decades of the Top 40

Casey Kasem was one of the most famous disc jockeys of all time, thanks to his amazing four-decade run as the host of American Top 40 and other weekly countdown shows. From 1970 to 2009, anyone who loved pop songs knew to tune in every week to hear Casey count 'em down. Sometimes a Long Distance Dedication made us think of someone we were missing, for a while we waited every week to see if Casey's prediction of the next week’s No. 1 song would come true, and we always learned a little something about the artists we were hearing as Casey presented a bit of backstory in his unmistakable voice.

Kasem was born April 27, 1932, and there's no better way to celebrate his birthday than to count 'em down just as Casey did. But instead of just one week's hot singles, we're counting down the top singles for every year of his reign as the King of Top 40. Casey never failed to do a year-end countdown that showcased the top hits of the year, and we've got the No. 1 song from each of those years. Check out our playlists to hear those yearly favorites and see how the Top 40 evolved over the four decades of Kasem's radio stardom.

1970s: American Top 40

American Top 40 debuted July 4, 1970, and throughout the 1970s, the show used the Billboard Hot 100 chart to determine which songs would be played. The very first No. 1 on Kasem's very first show was "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)" by Three Dog Night. Over the course of the decade, tastes changed, starting with the soft rock of Simon & Garfunkel and Roberta Flack, moving on to disco – Andy Gibb topped the year-end countdown two years in a row – and rounding out the decade with a first taste of new wave with the Knack.

1980s: Casey's Top 40 Debuts

In 1988, Casey left American Top 40 and was replaced by Shadoe Stevens – but Casey didn't stop bringing us the biggest hits. He just started his own show, Casey's Top 40, making a shift to using the Radio & Records Top 40 chart instead of Billboard. The decade included year-topping hits from stars such as Michael Jackson, his sister Janet and George Michael – both solo and with Wham!

1990s: Back to AT40

In 1997, Kasem acquired the rights to American Top 40, and in 1998, he was back on the air in his old gig. He also began hosting two shorter, adult contemporary-focused spinoffs of the original program: American Top 20 and American Top 10. Our playlist just features the top hits from Casey’s Top 40 (through 1997) and AT40, with soft R&B – Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men et al. – dominating the beginning of the decade and the alt-rock of Goo Goo Dolls and Sugar Ray taking the lead in its final years.

2000s: Retirement x 2

In 2004, Kasem retired from presenting AT40, passing the torch to current host Ryan Seacrest. He continued with American Top 20 and American Top 10 until his final retirement in 2009, so the second half of the decade took on a mellower tone as he presented only adult contemporary hits – Nickelback toward the beginning of the decade, Daughtry toward the end. His final show aired July 4, 2009 – 39 years to the day after his AT40 debut. Kasem didn't do a year-end countdown in 2009, so we end with the last song that he ever counted down to. And as Casey would tell us every week, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

Here's the full list of No. 1 songs:

1970: Simon & Garfunkel – "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

1971: Three Dog Night – "Joy to the World"

1972: Roberta Flack – "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"

1973: Tony Orlando & Dawn – "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree"

1974: Barbra Streisand – "The Way We Were"

1975: Captain & Tennille – "Love Will Keep Us Together"

1976: Paul McCartney & Wings – "Silly Love Songs"

1977: Andy Gibb – "I Just Want To Be Your Everything"

1978: Andy Gibb – "Shadow Dancing"

1979: The Knack – "My Sharona"

1980: Blondie – "Call Me"

1981: Kim Carnes – "Bette Davis Eyes"

1982: Olivia Newton-John – "Physical"

1983: The Police – "Every Breath You Take"

1984: Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – "Say Say Say"

1985: Wham! – "Careless Whisper"

1986: Dionne and Friends – "That's What Friends Are For"

1987: The Bangles – "Walk Like an Egyptian"

1988: George Michael – "Faith"

1989: Janet Jackson – "Miss You Much"

1990: Mariah Carey – "Vision of Love"

1991: Bryan Adams – "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You"

1992: Boyz II Men – "End of the Road"

1993: Mariah Carey – "Dreamlover"

1994: Ace of Base – "The Sign"

1995: Dionne Farris – "I Know"

1996: Everything But The Girl – "Missing"

1997: Jewel – "You Were Meant for Me"

1998: Goo Goo Dolls – "Iris"

1999: Sugar Ray – "Every Morning"

2000: Vertical Horizon – "Everything You Want"

2001: Lifehouse – "Hanging by a Moment"

2002: Nickelback – "How You Remind Me"

2003: 3 Doors Down – "When I'm Gone"

2004: Maroon 5 – "This Love"

2005: Green Day – "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"

2006: The Fray – "Over My Head"

2007: Daughtry – "It's Not Over"

2008: Sara Bareilles – "Love Song"

2009: Shinedown – "Second Chance"

Written by Linnea Crowther. Find her on Google+.