If you were born after 1970, you may not remember the Dick Clark that I remember. You might remember the Dick Clark of “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes” or “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”.
And if you were born after 1980, your primary image of Dick Clark is likely the elderly, diminished, post-stroke Dick Clark who showed up after young Ryan Seacrest carried the bulk of “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”. You might have winced at the sight of him. You might have wondered why he was still on TV.
But for the kids of my generation, born in the 1950’s – and the kids 10 years older than me – Dick Clark was a pop culture icon second to none.
At a time when the personal tastes of a single popular radio disc jockey could still make or break a musical artist, Dick Clark was the most influential DJ of them all.
And with “American Bandstand”, Dick Clark brought the best of rock & roll to television every week. If it was good rock & roll music, and you could dance to it, he showcased it on “American Bandstand”. Dick helped make the kids jump to bands and artists we might otherwise have never known — a lot of African-American artists, too. In the incredibly uptight 1950’s, he wasn’t hung up on “race music”. From Little Richard to Chuck Berry, it was all rock & roll to Dick Clark.
Now, I know there are those people – especially some rock & roll historians — who still harbor a grudge against Dick Clark because of the 1950’s Payola Scandal and how Dick got away relatively unscathed and Alan Freed’s career was basically destroyed.
Freed, the man who coined the term “rock & roll” took the fall – and Dick Clark rose above it.
Google the payola scandal, study the history, and reach your own conclusion. As a Clevelander, you might imagine I’d be in the pro-Freed, anti-Clark camp — but as I figure it, young Dick Clark did what he had to do. And “American Bandstand” helped to keep America rocking for more than 35 years.
(Ironically, I attended Northwestern University in the late 1970s with Dick Clark’s son and Alan Freed’s daughter. Strange but true.)
Farewell to Dick Clark.
His passing is truly the end of an era.
I give him a ten.
Because back in the day, he championed the music you could dance to.