by Brian Arsenault
He was often more cornball than hip.
He didn’t seem to distinguish between the talents of the Mamas and the Papas and whatever the Cowsills were.
Yet at a time when Sinatra’s more obnoxious friends like Joey Bishop and Steve and Edie made fun of rock music and musicians; when music variety shows on prime time TV never booked a rock performance and what would become youth culture was largely ignored, Dick Clark was there with the music kids loved. More importantly, without any fanfare he mixed black and white performers with equal attention and respect.
White kids might never have seen acts from the Temptations to Martha and the Vandellas to “Little” Stevie Wonder if it wasn’t for American Bandstand. They could burn rock records in the Bible Belt but they couldn’t knock Dick and his show off television and a couple generations watched avidly and changed music forever.
Does he get all the credit (or in some circles even today, blame)? Of course not. Ed Sullivan finally managed to swallow hard and show us Elvis (if only from the waist up) but Dick Clark was there early and for a time he seemed immortal.
America’s oldest teenager they called him, half with a sneer of contempt, but he provided an early showcase for the Jacksons and even Madonna. Yes, Madonna. Can you see her in those Capri pants lip synching “Holiday.”
When the news of his death came up on my laptop today, in that typically cold computer way, it was hard to be surprised. That stroke of some years ago dealt a hard blow and finally aged him. Yet my spirits sagged. Millions of no longer young “kids” were saddened along with me, no doubt.
He was in many ways long ago outdated as a barometer of rock and pop music trends but he was there at the beginning. And that was worth something. It was worth a lot.
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