‘Cha Cha Slide’ creator DJ Casper, a Chicago favorite, dies at 58 after battling cancer.
DJ Casper, creator of the dance hit “Cha Cha Slide,” which has played at celebrations and gymnasiums worldwide since the turn of the millennium, has died aged 58 after a battle with cancer, his wife told Chicago’s local ABC7.
“Casper was a fun-loving, giving person,” his wife said. “He was a genuine, family-oriented man. He loved Chicago with all his heart. He will be greatly missed.”
Born William “Willie” Perry Jr., the native Chicagoan initially recorded an early version of the “Cha Cha Slide” in the late ’90s as an aerobic exercise for his nephew, a personal trainer at Bally Total Fitness. The track quickly became a local hit, and he was asked to play it at local clubs and parties.
DJ Casper, so named for the white clothes he often wore when performing onstage, composed a new version of the song called “Casper Slide Part 2,” which would become the “Cha Cha Slide” known and loved throughout the US before catching fire on the charts in the UK and elsewhere. When Elroy Smith at Chicago’s WGCI-FM radio station first aired it in 2000, Universal Records picked it up soon after.
“I really didn’t expect the ‘Cha Cha Slide’ to do what it did,” Casper said in a 2018 interview with Chicago’s PBS station WTTW. “Everything hit all at once; Universal Records contacted me, they wanted me to go on a tour, and it started getting real crazy.”
The song and accompanying dance have become pop culture mainstays, playing at parties and sporting events worldwide and appearing on shows like Saturday Night Live and Orange is the New Black.
“I have one of the biggest songs that played at all stadiums: hockey, basketball, football, baseball; they played it at the Olympics,” said Casper. “It was something that everybody could do.”
In 2016, Casper was diagnosed with kidney and liver cancers and lost around 60 lbs. The artist had even been touring with James Brown, but everything stopped following his cancer diagnosis.
“Anybody that’s going through cancer, know that you have cancer and cancer does not have you,” said Casper. “So keep on doing the ‘Cha Cha Slide.’”