DJ Casper, the artist behind the hit dance song Cha-Cha Slide, has died aged 58.
His wife Kim told ABC7 he died of cancer on Monday. The songwriter was surrounded by his loved ones, she added.
Casper, who was born Willie Perry Jr, was a revered figure in his hometown of Chicago. He became an international figure at the turn of the century when his 2000 song Cha-Cha Slide was released. The track remains one of the most famous line dance songs and is routinely played across clubs, school recitals and birthday parties in North America and the UK.
Casper originally penned Cha-Cha Slide as an aerobic routine for his nephew, a fitness trainer in Chicago. In its earliest version, the song was simply a set of dance instructions for his nephew to play at the health club where he held classes.
Casper supplemented the instructions to music in 1998, using the song Plastic Dreams by the Dutch house music producer Jaydee. As Casper did not own the rights to the song, he hired a band to record an instrumental track, naming this updated version Casper Slide Part 2.
The song was released in 2000 and became a hit in Chicago. It gained popularity across the US as radio stations across the country began playing it. Soon, Cha-Cha Slide went overseas, topping the UK Singles Chart in 2004 and becoming an international sensation.
The song’s music video was just as popular and currently has more than 133 million views on Casper’s official YouTube channel. It features a large group of people dancing the slide in unison in various locations.
In his last interview, Casper told ABC7 in May he never envisioned the song becoming as popular as it did. “I had one of the biggest songs that was played in all stadiums: hockey, basketball, football, baseball," he said. "They played it at the Olympics. It was just something that everybody could do.”
Casper also spoke about how the song hoisted him to international acclaim, leading him to tour with the likes of James Brown. However, after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, his musical career came to a halt.
“They diagnosed me with two forms of cancer, which is renal and neuroendocrine, which is kidney and liver,” he said. "They went in to try to do surgery, and they found out the kidney was connected to the main artery, so they decided not to do it and just treat it."
Casper spoke about how the illness caused him to lose weight. "I used to weigh 236 pounds [107kg], and I think I'm about 60 pounds [27kg] less," Casper said. "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."