Don Imus Dead — Groundbreaking Shock-Jock Passes Away At Age 79

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How Did Don Imus Die? New Details On Death Of Groundbreaking Shock-Jock At Age 79
Entertainment And News

How did Don Imus die? John Donald Imus was a pioneer in the so-called "shock jock" radio genre. Crossing the lines from the politically incorrect into the downright insulting, Imus fought with everyone from Howard Stern to the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team. Yet, through it all, his radio show Imus in the Morning aired on various terrestrial and digital radio platforms until 2018. 

But did he contribute anything positive to the radio landscape? That's a question that only time and history can answer. On one hand, an argument can be made against political correctness — what is comedy, really, if it doesn't push boundaries — but, on the other, any good comedian knows that "punching down" isn't true comedy, but merely insults. 

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Let's look at what we know about Don Imus' cause of death, his controversial career, and his impact on the radio landscape. 

1. How did Don Imus die? His cause of death has not been released. 

Imus died on December 27, 2019, in College Station, TX. He was 79 years old. While his publicist released a statement confirming that Imus had passed away, a cause of death has not been released as of this writing.

There had been speculation that complications arising from prostate cancer may have been at the root cause of his passing, as he'd been treating the disease holistically since he was diagnosed in 2009. 

2. He's perhaps best known for sparking controversy with the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team. 

In 2007, Imus sparked a firestorm of controversy in a pre-social media era when he said that the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team was filled with "n*ppy-headed hoes." He later apologized for the comment, calling it "completely inappropriate, thoughtless and stupid," but his career never fully recovered from the comment, and MSNBC — who once hosted the show — distanced themselves. 

3. Imus had a nearly 50-year radio career when he finally retired in 2018. 

When Imus retired from broadcasting in 2018, he had a nearly 50-year radio career to boast about.

"I know in my heart there's been nobody ever better on the radio than me. Nobody ever did this. You have no idea how much I'm going to miss you," he said as he signed off for the last time.

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4. Although he's best known for his New York radio career, he got his start in California. 

After dropping out of high school in Arizona to enlist in the Marines, Imus lighted out to Hollywood with dreams of becoming a disc jockey. His first gig was at KUTY in Palmdale, CA.

He then went on to Sacramento's KXOA. While there, he was named Disc Jockey of the Year, which got him a gig in Cleveland in 1970. Shortly thereafter, he lighted off to New York City, and into radio history.

5. Even though he feuded with Howard Stern, he's credited with inspiring his career. 

Throughout the course of their respective terrestrial radio careers, Imus and Stern frequently butted heads. While Stern had better numbers and ratings, Imus was more critically-acclaimed and regarded as "high brow" humor.

Regardless, Imus was credited with giving a start to the "shock jock" radio genre, and critics agree that without Imus, there would be no Stern, nor any other "shock jock" on radio, satellite, or podcasts today. 

6. Imus was a philanthropist. 

Despite his "shock jock" persona, Imus was a philanthropist who founded The Imus Ranch with his second wife, Deirdre, in 1999. The Imus Ranch gave children with cancer the opportunity to enjoy the "great outdoors" in Imus's adopted state of Texas. The Imus Ranch was sold in 2018 to a Nebraska TV mogul.

In addition to Deirdre, Imus leaves behind sons Wyatt and Lt. Zachary Don Cates, and daughters Nadine, Ashley, Elizabeth and Toni. Our thoughts are with Don Imus and his family during this difficult time. 

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, publicist, and photographer whose work has appeared in Teen Vogue, People, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, BET.com, and more.