DJ Casper, the Chicago artist best known for the creation of the party classic “Cha Cha Slide” has died at 58. According to ABC 7, Casper’s wife confirmed to the station that he died on Monday (Aug. 7) after a seven-year battle with cancer.
As legend has it, Casper (born William Perry Jr.) created his most famous song for his nephew — a Bally fitness trainer — around 1998 as an aerobics exercise with the original title “Casper Slide Pt. 1.” The line dancing track however, with its instructions “To the left/ Take it back y’all/ One hop this time/ Right foot, let’s stomp/ Left foot, let’s stomp/ Cha cha real smooth,” blew up to become a global staple of bar/bat mitzvahs, proms, weddings and any party that needed starting.
In one of his last interviews in May, Casper — who got his DJ nickname thanks to his ubiquitous all-white stage outfits — told ABC 7 that he never imagined “Cha Cha Slide” would become an international smash performed by people all over the world. “When I first did it, I did it as an aerobic exercise for my nephew at Bally’s,” said Casper, who released the song under the name Mr. C the Slide Man. “From there, it just took off. Elroy Smith from WGCI grabbed ahold of it.”
The latter is a reference to the DJ at WGCI-FM in Chicago who picked up a new version, “Casper Slide Pt. 2,” in 2000 and began playing it. The track became a local hit in Chicago and in 2004 M.O.B. Records picked the song up, which later led to a deal with Universal Records and the track’s inclusion on the record, Cha-Cha Slide: The Original Slide Album.
“I have one of the biggest songs that played at all stadiums: hockey, basketball, football, baseball; they played it at the Olympics,” Casper told ABC. “It was something that everybody could do.”
In 2016, a GoFundMe was announced for Casper, revealing that he had been diagnosed with liver and kidney cancer and he told ABC that he’d been losing weight recently and despite shedding 60 pounds he was determined to fight on. “I used to weigh 236 pounds, and I think I’m about 60 pounds less,” Casper said in May. “If you know me, you know I’m not going to stop. I’m going to continue to go. I’m going to continue to go until I can’t go.”
In 2018, Casper made an unexpected cameo in Netflix’s women’s prison drama Orange Is the New Black, when Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren sees visions of everyone in the psych ward doing the “Cha Cha Slide,” including Casper, who is dressed as a prison orderly working the turntables. He was also an on-air personality on iHeart radio station V103 in Chicago and the creator of the streaming station Casper Classic Radio. In 2019, he announced that his cancer was in remission, but it later returned.
The DJ said his legacy was that “Cha Cha Slide” would always serve as a joyful reminder of the power of music to unify people with a positive message. “Anybody that’s going through cancer, know that you have cancer and cancer does not have you,” Casper said in May. “So, keep on doing the ‘Cha Cha Slide.’”
Watch the “Cha Cha Slide” video below.