Thursday, April 19, 2012

Goodbye, Dick Clark

image from

“America’s oldest teenager” will not be blowing out any more candles on birthday cakes. We’ll never ring in another new year with him. The man who helmed the original American Bandstand and gave us the famous catch phrase, “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” was stricken down at age 82. On Tuesday night, Dick Clark underwent an outpatient procedure at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California. He suffered a heart attack afterwards and could not be resuscitated. He is survived by three children and third wife, Kari Wigton, whom he married in 1977.

Clark’s career began in 1945 in the mail room at a radio station in Utica, New York when he was still in high school. In 1952, he went to Philadelphia to work for radio station WFIL and its affiliated television station. In 1956, he became the host of Bandstand, a Philadelphia dance show targeted to teens, and took it national the next year. It was a mainstay on ABC for thirty years becoming one of the most influential television shows in history as kids rushed home after school to see it every weekday afternoon. In its infancy, rock ‘n’ roll was perceived as a passing fancy; Clark legitimized it. The show marked the network television debuts of artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, The Doors, The Jackson Five, the Talking Heads, and Prince.

The Jackson 5 “I Want You Back”

While his clean-cut image and the sanitized American Bandstand had its critics, Clark was a defender of artistic freedom and condemned censorship. At a time when it was safer and more commercially viable to turn to white performers for cover versions of popular R&B hits by black artists, Clark played the original songs.

In 1972, Clark launched a tradition with his New Year’s Eve telecast. He also created the American Music Awards and hosted shows such as The $25,000 Pyramid and TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes. At one time during the 1980s, he had shows on all three networks. He suffered a stroke in 2004, but continued to be an iconic presence for events such as New Year’s Rockin’ Eve despite his impaired speech.

Resources and Related Links:

Dick Clark interviews Madonna

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