I swear Casey Kasem’s voice is tattooed into my memory. Every weekend listening to the music countdown and hearing that iconic voice introduce each song, read requests and dedications and a listener’s story (that usually left me in tears). It’s funny how things like that stick with you. I probably still have countless cassette tapes in storage that have that legendary voice and the top hits of that week on them. What a prehistoric seeming thing to do nowadays when any radio station or playlist you want is just a button away. Do they even make cassettes or tape-players anymore? Either way, music was my life starting at a very young age and DJ’s were a big part of that life for me. I remember all the words to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice, Baby” not because I’m a lyrical genius but because of the weekend one of the local DJ’s locked himself in the radio station and played that song over and over for the ENTIRE weekend. It may have gotten annoying after the 48th time hearing it but i’ll never forget it. I made many requests and dedications of my own growing up (though admittedly none for “Ice, Ice, Baby” after that one weekend) and I had some pretty awesome DJ’s to call upon.
It’s easy to take DJ’s for granted – cutting them off to skip to another channel or avoiding them altogether with an iPod playlist. But before the iPod revolution, back when it seemed like it took forever for the album to hit the shelves and you were up at 3:00 am, heartbroken and just needing to hear that song, who did you turn to? When you wanted to surprise someone with a flashback song from spring break during their drive home, who were you gonna call? When you and your girlfriends were laying around with magazines and face-mask, painting toenails or, when you were having a party, who could you count on to give you the perfect music to go along? It was your favorite DJ.
In a way DJ’s were timeless creatures. Forever preserved in the realm of radio. You don’t think of them as everyday people when you were listening to them growing up because you never saw them…They were just “that voice”. That voice that knew just what song to play for you no matter what your mood. The perfect love song. The perfect hate song. The perfect cleaning house song. And the perfect third date song. Songs of loss for all those grieving. Songs of praise and songs of leaving. The DJ’s I grew up listening to and those I listen to today all have special place in my heart. It’s as if they’re all long-time friends. They were there during so many of our special occasions. Back before Pandora hit the scene, DJ’s have been playing all your favorites and injecting their infectious personalities into your life; Taking your requests; Letting you rant (on-air); Helping you prank someone. You spend your weekend trips listening to them; Your morning and afternoon commutes are better when they’re riding along. You laugh and sometimes cry with them and you may even argue with them but no matter what, they’re there for your entertainment. There’s hundreds in every town across America and most will never make it to the “big leagues” of Casey Kasem or his protégées like Ryan Seacrest but they are all famous in their own right. Our secret collaborators – bringing us the songs that we link to so many different times in our life.
So next time you’re channel surfing take a minute to appreciate the voices before that music. The ones that know how to perfectly time their intro before the first words of the song start. The ones that have to listen to your favorite new song 20 times a day even if they don’t like it themselves. The ones who open up and make you laugh and do all they can to make your day better; Who give you pieces of them that become a familiar comfort. And the ones that have ever had to play the entire version of tracks like “Purple Rain” or “Stairway to Heaven” simply because they respected music enough to know not to cut off the song. They’re not just there for traffic and weather.
Thanks to all the voices out there that have brought me good music for the soundtrack to my life and RIP to the man who taught us how to count to 40 – backwards.
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