Willie Perry Jr., the Chicago musician known as DJ Casper who created the popular Cha Cha Slide line dance and wrote the hit song that made it a worldwide sensation, died Monday following a long battle with cancer. He was 58.
Perry, also known as Mr. C the Slide Man, revealed he had been diagnosed with kidney and liver cancer in 2016, updating the public on his progress over the subsequent years. He had been in remission for several years when the cancer returned, according to Chicago’s ABC 7.
“Anybody that’s going through cancer, know that you have cancer and cancer does not have you. So, keep on doing the ‘Cha Cha Slide,’” Perry said in a statement written before his death and released posthumously.
Today the catchy beat of “Casper Slide Pt. 2” and the instantly memorable “Everybody clap your hands” and “cha cha real smooth” lyrics — not to mention the dance the song inspired — are nearly ubiquitous cultural touchstones. But before Cha Cha Slide became a staple of weddings and other rites of passage, house parties and even NBA games, it was an aerobics workout.
Perry created it for his nephew, a personal trainer in Chicago, to accompany a workout based on the lyrics’ instructions, in 1998. “Casper Slide Pt 1” soon became a popular local hit and he recorded a new version, “Pt 2” in 2000, credited to Mr. C the Slide Man.
The song a purely local phenomenon until it was included on a complication of Chicago-based musical artists and distributed by Universal. For the next 3 years it was a regularly played on Urban Contemporary radio stations across the U.S.; in 2004 it became a #1 hit in the UK.
Born in Chicago in 1965 and a lifelong resident, Perry is survived by his wife, Kim, and his family.