TIME remembrance

Why Casey Kasem Mattered

Casey Kasem
Casey Kasem poses for a publicity still circa 1990 in Los Angeles, Calif. Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images

During a tumultuous time, Kasem—who died June 15 at 82—made music less divisive

Casey Kasem was one of the most important disc-jockeys in the history of radio. While Alan Freed is often credited with the rowdy rise of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid 1950s and Tom Donahue with the creation of free-form FM radio in the ‘60s, Kasem’s contribution gently defied the increasingly divisive changes in radio that marked the 1970s. From its first broadcast in 1970, his “America’s Top 40” counted down hit songs in a dizzyingly diverse array of styles. What kept it all together was Kasem himself—that distinctive voice and genial, charmingly earnest on-air persona. As Dick Clark did on television, Kasem helped bring an often splintered nation together around pop music.

Grounded in 1950s and ‘60s regional AM radio, Kasem’s style seemed old school the day he emerged on the national scene. But Kasem was more than a DJ: he was a host. Not long after families had gathered around the TV to watch Elvis or the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Kasem brought the variety-show approach back to syndicated radio, broadcasting coast to coast. Unlike variety hosts of radio’s golden age in the 1930s and 40s (such as Bing Crosby), Casey did not have the artists available in the studio to provide a few words and the personal touch. Instead, Kasem cleverly emphasized artists’ personal lives with engaging facts and brief bios, adding tear-jerking dedications from listeners to the mix.

With such a wide stylistic range of songs in the countdown, there were always songs you didn’t like; nevertheless, you continued to listen. Who could tune out? What song would be number one? “As the numbers get smaller, the hits get bigger,” Casey would often tease. You felt like you knew the artists, the other listeners, and the optimistic, well-wishing master of ceremonies. This was more than a radio show: it was a gathering of friends. While Kasem also enjoyed a broad range of success as an announcer and voice actor, it is this work as radio host that has made its mark in history.

John Covach is Director of the University of Rochester Institute for Popular Music.

Read more about Casey Kasem in this week’s issue of TIME

TIME Baseball

Tony Gwynn Was a Joy to Watch at the Plate, and in Life

San Diego Padres' Tony Gwynn removes his batting g
Tony Gwynn in September, 2001. MIKE FIALA—AFP/Getty Images

sportsillustrated

What Tony Gwynn did even better than “carving” base hits through “the 5.5 hole” between third base and shortstop — something he did so often and so well he owned the concept the way Willie Mays did the basket catch and Sandy Koufax the curveball — was to make people smile. Gwynn loved baseball through and through. He could not hide his enthusiasm for feeling the dirt and grass under his feet, which is why after hitting .338 over 20 years of major league baseball and earning $47 million he went to San Diego State to coach college kids on how to play and love this beautiful game.

Quick: name another Hall of Famer in baseball’s era of economic boom who took to coaching college kids. Stuck? Thought so.

Today baseball is a little less beautiful. Tony Gwynn and that sweet smile and infectious, childish giggle of his are gone. Gwynn died at age 54 after a four-year battle against cancer in his salivary gland, a vicious disease that people will connect to his use of smokeless tobacco, the vile habit that is still too common in the game.

Gwynn’s Hall of Fame plaque calls him “an artisan with the bat,” and one of the great pleasures for anybody covering baseball in the 1980s and ’90s was to sit down with the artisan and talk hitting. Gwynn was as prolific a talker as he was a hitter, the observations and theories flying from him like line drives sprayed around the outfield.

SI VAULT: How Tony Gwynn became the best hitter in baseball (09.18.95)

Only once did I see Gwynn’s cherubic face turned sour. It was after Game 1 of the 1998 World Series. Batting against New York’s David Wells in a tie game in the fifth inning, Gwynn crushed the first pitch into the upper deck in rightfield at Yankee Stadium. The renowned singles hitter had just made like the Bambino himself. Jaws dropped in the press box. The Padres would lose the game, but the writers made their way to Gwynn afterward to learn more about this uncharacteristic home run. Now, Gwynn was the go-to guy in the San Diego clubhouse whether the Padres won or lost, whether he went 4-for-4 or 0-for-4. He was always available, insightful and courteous. And yet this time, when reporters didn’t hide their astonishment that Gwynn had hit a ball so high and so far, Gwynn barked back a bit. He barely looked up and gave a clipped answer. His pride was hurt.

After the group session broke up, I walked up to Gwynn and complimented him on showing the restraint that he did.

“Have they seen me play before?” he said to me. “It’s not like it’s the first home run I’ve ever hit. I’ve hit a few before and I’ve hit a few longer than that. Give me a break.”

SI VAULT: A tribute to Tony Gwynn, Hall of Famer (07.25.07)

Indeed, while the singular skill of shooting line drives through the hole into leftfield defined him, it also overshadowed his athletic excellence. In 1987, Gwynn hit .370 while stealing 56 bases. It remains the only time in the past 92 years anybody hit .370 with at least 50 steals. The only other players to ever do so were George Sisler, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Benny Kauff.

Gwynn played 20 years and never struck out more than 40 times. He had more doubles than strikeouts in his career. In fact, he is one of only five players in the history of the game with more than 500 doubles and fewer than 500 strikeouts, keeping company with Hall of Famers from eras long gone: Paul Waner, Charlie Gehringer, Tris Speaker and Nap Lajoie. He had the bat control of a deadball star in the modern game while still flashing extra-base power.

Gwynn enjoyed a great friendship with Ted Williams and talked hitting with his fellow San Diegan on levels only the virtuosos understand. Williams loved to talk about the barrel of the bat coming up to met the baseball with a slight angle; Gwynn simply dropped the barrel down and through the baseball with a bat so small he used to refer to it as his “peashooter.”

Gwynn was a fervent student of the game. He was one of the first players who dove into the video age. His wife would travel around with a video cassette player — the old Betamax used in those days was as big as a suitcase — and tape his at-bats. Gwynn would watch the tapes after games in his hotel room on the road. Sometimes he would cover the TV set with a sheet of plastic wrap and draw with a wax marker, often to make sure his head didn’t move during his swing or that his body kept its center of balance.

Gwynn seemed to have the mysteries of hitting figured out better than most, like one of those Rubik’s cube masters who can solve the puzzle blindfolded in seconds. And yet he worked and studied at his craft more than most. Baseball never seemed to be work for the man who was called “Mr. Padre.”

All of his amazing numbers, however, don’t tell the true story of Tony Gwynn. He was an ambassador not just for the game of baseball but for mankind. His dignity and modesty were remarkable in any age, but especially this one, in which the individual who shouts the loudest about himself gets the most fame, and we have confused fame with character. Gwynn won the 1995 Branch Rickey Award, the 1998 Lou Gehrig Award and the 1999 Roberto Clemente Award, all honors given to baseball players for their character and humanitarianism, not just their batting skills.

Gwynn will be missed by those who never met him for his extraordinary skills at a very difficult game. He will be missed by those who knew him, whether for a minute or a lifetime, for his smile and his generosity. He is gone much too soon, and deserves every one of the tributes and honors that will mark his passing, none of which would be greater than the next ballplayer who gives up smokeless tobacco.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Television

Somehow Forming a Family: Why We Loved The Brady Bunch‘s Alice

Played by Ann B. Davis, who died over the weekend, Alice represented something that was becoming familiar in people's complicated lives if not on TV: the non-parent parent.

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In the famous opening grid of The Brady Bunch‘s title sequence, the character who occupies the center square is not a parent or a child but Alice the housekeeper. (As a kid, I had a heavy diet of Hollywood Squares episodes and Brady Bunch reruns, and therefore forever had Alice and Paul Lynde weirdly conjoined in my mind.) Played by Ann B. Davis, who died after a fall on May 31 at age 88, Alice was the connecting tissue of the group that somehow formed a family.

As a kid watching the Bradys, maybe you identified with Jan or Bobby or another kid, maybe you had affection for Mike and Carol–but Alice was the one you loved. She was an employee, yes, but a friend and a confidante. She was the adult on the show who was most often allowed to be flat-out, broadly funny. Mike had to be patient and befuddled; Carol warm and wise. But Alice got to be smart, self-effacing, flustered, and straight-talking, and Davis played her with a comic arsenal of comic moves and gestures–that peppy voice, those talented eyebrows–and just a touch of relatable melancholy. (Oh, Sam the Butcher!)

The character was also a connection between TV eras. On the one hand, she was a throwback to the early days of TV sitcoms, when housekeeper and maid characters were more commonplace, from Hazel to The Jetsons’ Rosie. (While she had successors, like The Jeffersons‘ Florence, the wisecracking household worker isn’t so common anymore.) But on the other hand, she connected with a change that, in the early ’70s, was emerging in American families, in which figures other than two parents were central in kids’ lives.

Like a lot of childhood TV memories, The Brady Bunch is loved not so much for its artistry as for its emotional connections. The Brady family was big, it was blended, and it felt like there was room for everyone. Putting two families together on TV was unusual at the time, and it spoke to the number of kids who recognized divorce and remarriage from their own lives. Yes, Mike was a widower, and Carol’s status was never clarified–a compromise after Sherwood Schwartz wanted her to be a divorcée–but anyone watching knew what the show was really depicting. It turned something commonly depicted as tragedy into a triumph–a family coming together by choice.

And Alice–an employee, after all–was there by choice more than anyone. Nothing was making her stay, and yet she did. An early episode (see video, above), “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” addressed this directly, as Alice almost left (concocting a story about a “sick aunt”) because she worried the kids didn’t need her anymore. In typical Brady style, this led to hijinks–the whole family undertaking “Operation Alice” to convince her that she was needed–but really the necessity was plain in sight. The Brady house was an operation with a lot of moving parts.

Most of us watching The Bradys didn’t have full-time household help whipping up pork chops and applesauce. But we were, more and more, familiar with the parent-plus model of child-rearing: extended family, or paid caregivers, or family friends who occupied our lives and filled the gaps left by family breakups or busy work schedules.

For some of us, Alice reflected the accessory parents we had in our own lives. For others, she was one of those accessory parents–a familiar presence on the TV in an empty house, dishing out one-liners and companionship. We loved her because she made us laugh, and because she told us something we already knew: that you didn’t have to be blood to be family, you didn’t have to be related to relate. RIP, Ann B. Davis.

TIME remembrance

Advice From Maya Angelou: “Don’t Trust People Who Don’t Laugh”

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou attends the Norman Mailer Center's fifth annual benefit gala at the New York Public Library on Oct. 17, 2013, in New York City. Michael Loccisano—Getty Images for The Norman Mailer Center

The influential writer has died at age 86

Not every moment in the life of Maya Angelou, the prolific writer who died today at 86, was something to laugh at: as TIME’s Lev Grossman recounts in his remembrance, her youth was a period marred by abuse and suffering. Still, Angelou repeatedly took the chance to remind others about the importance of laughter.

It was a piece of advice she dispensed frequently often over the years, particularly when speaking to young people. A 1998 report of her visit to the University of Buffalo included that idea: “Don’t trust people who don’t laugh,” she told the audience, after speaking about a painful time in her own life. “I don’t.”

As recently as last year, she expanded on that wisdom again, when speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN:

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were brothers. They had incredible senses of humor. They could make you laugh in the worst of times, and they did so. And you know, I never trust people who don’t laugh, who said, “I am serious” and act as if they put airplane glue on the back of their hands and stuck the glue to their foreheads. I think, “You’re not serious; you’re boring as hell.”

If you’re serious, you really understand that it’s important that you laugh as much as possible and admit that you’re the funniest person you ever met. You have to laugh. Admit that you’re funny. Otherwise, you die in solemnity.

In the poem “Old Folks Laugh,” included in her 1997 collection of poetry, I Shall Not Be Moved, she made clear that her advice about laughter wasn’t just about not taking yourself too seriously. The poem’s conclusion states that laughter is still the best medicine: “When old folks laugh, they consider the promise / of dear painless death, and generously / forgive life for happening / to them.”

TIME obituary

Maya Angelou: A Hymn to Human Endurance

Maya Angelou in 1996.
Maya Angelou in 1996. Chuck Burton—AP

Remembering a life of relentless creativity.

When Maya Angelou was 16 she became not only the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco but the first woman conductor. By the time she was 40 she had also been, in no particular order, a cook, a waitress, a madam, a prostitute, a dancer, an actress, a playwright, an editor at an English-language newspaper in Egypt, and a Calypso singer (her one album is entitled “Miss Calypso.”) It wasn’t until 1970, when she was 41, that she became an author: her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, told the story of her life up to the age of 17. That remarkable life story ended today at the age of 86.

In her last years Angelou’s work became associated with a certain easy, commercial sentimentality—she loaned her name to a line of Hallmark cards, for example—but there was nothing easy about her beginnings. She was born Marguerite Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents divorced when she was 3. When she was 7 her mother’s boyfriend raped her. She testified against him in court, but before he could be sentenced he was found beaten to death in an alley. Angelou’s response to the trauma was to become virtually mute – she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, speak in public for the next 5 years. She often cited this silent period as a time when she became intimately aware of the written word.

Angelou eventually regained her voice, but her life remained chaotic. She became a mother at 17, immediately after graduating high school. She bounced from city to city, job to job and spouse to spouse (she picked up the name Angelou from one of her husbands; “Maya” was her brother’s nickname for her). She spent years living in Egypt and then in Ghana. By the time she was 40 her life story and her distinctive, charismatic way with words had her friends—among them James Baldwin—begging her to write it all down. She finally did.

In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Angelou describes herself as “a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil.” Although generations of high school students have been assigned it, the book’s unsparing account of black life in the South during the Depression, and of her sexual abuse, is not easy reading. It is Angelou’s tough, funny, lyrical voice that transforms her story from a litany of isolation and suffering into a hymn of glorious human endurance. That extraordinary voice—dense, idiosyncratic, hilarious, alive—brought novelistic techniques to the task of telling a life story, and its influence on later generations of memoirists, from Maxine Hong Kingston to Elizabeth Gilbert, is incalculable. (Angelou also mixed fact and fiction, unapologetically, long before James Frey.) The themes she expounded in Caged Bird, of suffering and self-reliance, would be braided through the rest of her long life’s work. “All my work, my life, everything is about survival,” Angelou said. “All my work is meant to say, ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.’ In fact, the encountering may be the very experience which creates the vitality and the power to endure.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was nominated for a National Book Award, and it was followed by a torrent of creative output in every possible medium. Angelou wrote five more volumes of autobiography and six books of poetry. She was nominated for an Emmy for playing Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in Roots. She wrote children’s books and essays and the lyrics to a musical, King. She acted in movies and even directed one, Down in the Delta. She took to the national stage in 1993 when she read a poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at President Clinton’s inauguration.

Angelou’s energy was enormous and her activity incessant. Though her education stopped after high school, she held a lifetime professorship at Wake Forest and collected honorary degrees from 50 more colleges and universities. She lectured 80 times a year. From 1981 on she lived in a brick house in Winston-Salem; despite her various marriages she lived alone, and her first child was also her last. A commanding figure at 6 ft. tall, she rose at 4 or 5 every morning and went to a bare room at a nearby motel to work, alone with a stack of legal pads, a Bible, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a bottle of sherry.

Her relentless creativity didn’t balk at her own obituary, and as usual she put it better than anyone else could have. “What I would really like said about me is that I dared to love,” Angelou told an interviewer in 1985. “By love I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage and build bridges, and then to trust those bridges and cross the bridges in attempts to reach other human beings.”

TIME obituary

Maya Angelou Dead at 86

The celebrated poet, author and civil rights activist passed away on Wednesday in her North Carolina home

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Maya Angelou, the acclaimed poet, author and civil rights icon who wrote lyrically of her childhood in the Jim Crow south, died Wednesday morning. She was 86, and her death was confirmed by a family representative and by officials at the Winston-Salem mayor’s office in North Carolina, where she had been living.

Angelou had been honored with more than 50 awards, including the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for her collected works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, most notably her groundbreaking memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made history as one of the first nonfiction best-sellers by an African-American woman.

President Barack Obama called her “one of the brightest lights of our time—a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman.”

“With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer,” Obama said in a statement. “And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, ‘flung up to heaven’— and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.”

Angelou had recently cancelled a scheduled appearance at the 2014 MLB Beacon Award Luncheon, where she was to be honored with the Beacon of Life Award, due to health problems.

“Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension,” a family representative posted on her Facebook page. “She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, Angelou told TIME in 2013 that she was working on her 32nd book, one that she said was, “asking me to be better than I’ve ever been.”

Born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Mo., Angelou lived an itinerant childhood traveling between her hometown and Stamps, Ariz., where she witnessed racial segregation first-hand, an experience that would later inform some of the more searing chapters of her books.

At age seven, Angelou testified in court against her mother’s boyfriend, who stood accused of raping her mother. Angelou was stunned into silence when she witnessed the man chased down by a mob and beaten to death.

“My seven-and-a-half-year-old logic deduced that my voice had killed him, so I stopped speaking for almost six years,” she said.

She emerged from the experience with a voice that was both lyrical and searing in its portrayal of race relations in America and always capable of grabbing headlines. When George Zimmerman was acquitted for the shooting of an unarmed young black teenager, Trayvon Martin, Angelou told TIME: “We are all harmed. We are all belittled, and we give to the rest of the world more ammunition to sneer at us.”

Angelou’s career spanned the globe, including stints as an editor in Egypt a and a music and drama school teacher in Ghana. Her career also extended beyond the page to the film set, the stage and the lectern. As a civil rights activist, she became friends with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Her last tweet, posted on May 23, read:

TIME movies

Alien Director Ridley Scott Remembers H.R. Giger: “He Was a True Original”

The pair collaborated on the 1979 film, for which Giger won an Academy Award for visual effects

H.R. Giger, the set designer largely responsible for the iconic visual effects of the 1979 film Alien, died on Monday at the age of 74. In the wake of his passing, Alien director Ridley Scott issued this statement to TIME, recalling their collaboration on the at Shepperton Studios in London:

“I am very saddened to hear of Giger’s passing. I think back on how committed and passionate he was, and then consequently, all the security we built up around his ‘lock up’ studios at Shepperton. I was the only one allowed the honor of going in, and I absolutely enjoyed every hour I spent with him there. He was a real artist and great eccentric, a true original, but above all, he was a really nice man. He will be missed.”

TIME remembrance

H.R. Giger, Creator Of The Perfect Movie Monster, Dead at 74

H. R. Giger
Visual artist H. R. Giger taking off face mask. Dana Frank—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Swiss artist created the designs for the hissing, acid-blooded xenomorph in Ridley Scott's haunting "Alien"

Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who haunted movie goers by creating Ridley Scott’s Alien, died Monday at the age of 74. A representative from his museum told the Associated Pressthat he died from injuries sustained from a fall.

Giger was born in Chur, Switzerland in 1940 and became famous for creating nightmarish landscapes and surreal creatures in Hollywood science fiction films. The sculptor, artist, and set designer began working in movies in 1975 on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s uncompleted Dune remake, but came to prominence with the creation of the nightmarish creature in Alien (1979).Ridley Scott was inspired by Giger’s book Necronomicon and hired the artist to work on the film. He later went on to work on films including Poltergeist II and Species.

Here Giger is with his alien progeny:

He won an Academy Award for Best Achievement for Visual Effects for Alien and was named into the Science Fiction and Fantasy hall of Fame in 2013:

FARRAH FAWCETT AND HAROLD RUSSELL WITH BEST VISUAL EFFECTS WINNERS
PRESENTERS FARRAH FAWCETT AND HAROLD RUSSELL (R) WITH BEST VISUAL EFFECTS OSCAR WINNERS (2ND FROM L-R): H.R. GIGER, CARLO RAMBALDI, BRIAN JOHNSON, NICK ALLDER, DENYS AYLING ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images

Giger’s work lived beyond the screen:

Switzerland Obit Giger
Swiss artist H.R. Giger poses with two of his works at the art museum in Chur, Switzerland. AP

He even created monstrous microphone stands for the band Korn:

Korn Perform in Manchester
Korn in Manchester, England. Shirlaine Forrest—Getty Images

Details on survivors and funeral arrangements haven’t yet been released.

[AP]

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