Video: DJ Casper appeared on “Chicago Tonight” in 2018. (Produced by Erica Gunderson)
DJ Casper, the South Side native who created the enduring party classic “Cha-Cha Slide,” has died. He was 58.
His death was confirmed Monday by his wife, Kim, and first reported by ABC7 News. Casper was diagnosed with kidney and liver cancer in 2016.
The song that launched Casper onto an untold number of wedding and party playlists caught him by surprise. With its danceable beat and clear instructions, the dance song became a nationwide pop hit in 2001 and made it to No. 1 in the U.K. by 2004.
While its rise came quick, Casper’s work in music was lifelong. He began working as a DJ and making music as a teenager.
“You’re always thinking about what can I do to make this person have fun, it just so happened the ‘Cha-Cha Slide’ made everyone have fun,” he told WTTW News in a 2018 interview.
The song’s path to the charts was an unusual one.
In 1999, Casper created it as a favor to his nephew who was working as personal fitness trainer. It was meant to be used as an aerobic workout. Eventually, he put music behind it.
Then it grew. And grew.
“I didn’t do it through a label or anything, just out the trunk,” Casper said.
WGCI began playing the song on the radio after requests started pouring in due to its popularity around Chicago.
Once it hit the airwaves, it became a nationwide phenomenon.
“The best part about the ‘Cha-Cha Slide’ is you don’t need any lessons, you don’t need any rhythm, you can just follow along … sometimes special can mean simple, and when simple means you can connect with the human spirit … it’s in a category by itself,” said Glenn Cosby in 2018. Cosby worked with Casper at V103.
While the song may have peaked in popularity decades ago, it still remains a presence at large and small gatherings for people of all ages.
“I’ve gotten sick of the song a long time ago. But I don’t get sick of people enjoying themselves,” Casper said.
WTTW News producer Erica Gunderson contributed.