In 2003, Mike Tollin directed a film about a real life character called James Effinhimer Robert ‘Radio’ Kennedy — a nickname he acquired because he was fascinated with radios and would carry one everywhere.
The film was called, yes, Radio. How powerful and dangerous radio can be as a medium was captured in Talk Radio, a 1988, Oliver Stone film starring Eric Bogosian, Ellen Greene and Leslie Hope. Bits of the film were based on the murder of radio host Alan Berg in 1984, who had a provocative manner and controversial political views. And of course, it is hard to talk about films on radio without mentioning Good Morning, Vietnam where, as military broadcaster Cronauer, Robin Williams delivers bitter-sweet life lessons to troops. In India, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. used radio as a clever device and you will remember a classic love story like Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) where radio connects the hero and the heroine over Sahir Ludhiyanvi’s poetry.
And that really is the thing about radio. The thickest human silence is peopled by companions when you tune into someone who talks to you about things that make sense to you. All India Radio’s Urdu Service once had (and probably still does) RJs who did not just play music but talked about life, politics, poetry and even little things that friends talk about when they meet. Women who are home-bound in rural India and small towns without any access to a social life often tune into AIR’s phone-in show for women every day and share anecdotes, the recipes they want repeated, the songs they want to hear. For them, the women who talk to them from the other end of the line are friends they have never met but can always rely on to show up on the air waves.
For many listeners, Casey Kasem, a legendary radio broadcaster was that friend. He passed away on June 15 and remains a beloved memory for generations of fans. He pioneered American Top 40 and did with his voice what few people can do with their lives — make life-long connections. His sign off line to listeners tells you why he reached where so few could — And don’t forget: keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.