Dick Clark, the venerable music titan and pioneering maverick who paved the way for many bands by way of the long-running television program American Bandstand, died this morning at Saint John’s hospital in Santa Monica, according to CBS News, who reports that Clark suffered a heart attack there a day after he was admitted for an outpatient procedure. He was 82 years old.
Clark, who was born in Mount Vernon, NY, on November 30th, 1929, caught his first career fire as a disc jockey at WFIL radio in Philadelphia in 1952 and hosted a program called Bandstand, which was the beginning of a program which eventually moved to local, and then national televison as American Bandstand. After five years, the program, and Clark, became national icons, as millions watched each week on ABC to see the easy to digest format of the show, which basically showcased teenagers dancing to popular bands, some of whom made appearances, playing live or lip-synching to their hit records at the time. Records were also “rated” and Clark would also host right from the audience and get comments from folks there as well about the acts on the show.
A congenial, assured host, Clark’s style and demeanor and natural good looks on the program were akin to the style of a Johnny Carson. While Clark may not have possessed Carson’s wit, he did know how to run a smooth ship in hosting a program, and American Bandstand successfully ran for decades since its debut, well into the 1990s, and was able to deftly still survive even when musical styles and tastes changed through the years.
Clark also hosted game shows throughout his long career — he is best remembered as well as the host of Pyramid which premiered in 1973 and had a top dollar amount of $10,000 to be won. By the late 80s, inflation changed the top prize to $100,000 and Clark was still at the helm of the hosting duties, many multiple Emmy Award wins later.
He also produced and created The American Music Awards, which to this day still airs, as a kind of alternate to the Grammy Awards. The program has aired each year since the early 1970s and still brings in big numbers in the ratings and performers to it.
But he may be best known as the host of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in which he counted down the New Year’s ball at Times Square in New York City at the turn of every year, something he had done since 1972. A stroke sidelined him in 2004 and he was forced to miss that year’s program, but he came back in later years after painstaking stroke therapy, and even though paralysis had slurred his speech and movements, he still was able to do the countdown, his final one being in 2011.
Clark will be remembered as an icon for sure, a figure of almost mythical proportions in his respective field, who commandeered a production empire which brought popular music and kept popular music in the minds and memories of millions of people. Rest in Peace Mr. Clark and, as you put it at the end of every Pyramid episode you hosted, “So long.”