April 18, 2012
Dick Clark taught the largest generation in U.S. history how to dance. In the process, he helped launch one of the most enduring and controversial segments of the music industry—rock and roll. Clark died Wednesday of a massive heart attack, after being admitted for an outpatient procedure at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. He was 82.
Clark’s career, fortune and fate were established in 1952 with the launch of American Bandstand at a local Philadelphia TV station. A few years later, the show aired nationally at 3:30 in the afternoon. Baby boom kids would rush home from school to watch Justine and Bob—the show’s most popular couple—dance the lindy, the hop, the stroll, the mashed potatoes and, of course, the twist.
In today’s terminology, American Bandstand was disruptive, a cultural force that changed the way people moved, talked, and communicated. The raging hormone generation also gave rise to a new music business. Instead of buying long-playing hi-fidelity albums, teens bought 45 rpm singles.
Different regional styles were welcomed on Bandstand, and kids got to know the Philadelphia sound (The Four Seasons), the DEEtroit sound of Motown records (The Temptations), and, ultimately, the surfer sound of California (the Beach Boys).
Richard Wagstaff "Dick" Clark was the perfect host for American Bandstand. He was young, but didn’t look like a kid; he had authority, but never came across as parental. Mostly, he was a cheerleader for new bands and dance routines without but never even did a two-step or sang a doo-wop on his show.
Clark parlayed his success into a multi-million dollar production business that included game shows and his internationally popular, “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.” Now it’s time to bid auld lang syne to one of the cultural heroes of the 20th century.
Here is a small sampling of the many acts to perform on Clark's stage at American Bandstand.