DJ Casper, creator of the 2000 novelty hit “Cha Cha Slide” and its ubiquitous line dance, has died at the age of 58.
Casper, whose birth name was Willie Perry Jr., died Monday after a seven-year battle with cancer, his wife Kim confirmed WLS TV in Chicago, which first reported on the death of the musician. The BBC reported that Casper was diagnosed with kidney and liver cancer in 2016 and underwent treatment.
“Casper was a fun-loving and generous person,” his wife said in a statement. “He was a real, family-oriented man. He loved Chicago with all his heart. We will miss him.”
The family announced his diagnosis in 2016 after a GoFundMe Campaign to help with his care.
Born and raised in Chicago, the hype man once toured with funk legend James Brown. As a teenager he started making music and DJing. He described himself as a born entertainer who wanted to make people have fun. The South Sider, also known by the alias “Mr. The song whose video was filmed in downtown Chicagosparked an international dance trend that has been a regular occurrence at dance parties and wedding receptions since the early hours of the morning.
“I really didn’t expect the ‘Cha-Cha Slide’ to do what it does,” he told Chicago’s PBS station WTTW in 2018.
“Cha Cha Slide” was originally called “Casper Slide Pt. 1” when it was released in 1998. The accompanying choreography consists of instructing the dancers to stomp, “slide left, slide right.” “Criss Cross” and “Cha Cha Real Smooth” were originally written for his nephew’s step aerobics class at Bally Total Fitness evolved, Casper said, and the track sold out. His local popularity led him to name “Casper Slide Pt. 2”, which was picked up by Chicago radio station WGCI-FM in 2000 and became a local hit, with listeners calling in to request the song.
MOB Records recorded the song in 2004 and led DJ Casper to a deal with Universal Records.
“I have one of the biggest songs played in all stadiums: hockey, basketball, soccer, baseball; They played it at the Olympics,” DJ Casper told WLS in May. “It was just something anyone could do.”
The song’s success allowed him to keep making music, he told WTTW, but royalty checks have dwindled since the peak and he splurged “until all the money was gone.” Though he continued to perform the hit at events, the novelty eventually waned: “I got tired of that song a long time ago. But I’m not tired of people enjoying themselves.”
Dressed as a prison guard working on a record player, Casper made a notable appearance in Season 6 of the Netflix dramedy Orange Is the New Black when Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) hallucinated about her fellow inmates and prison guards line dancing. The song was also featured on the soundtracks of the films Turning Red, Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania, and Red Road.