An Appreciation: Farewell Dick Clark

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He was in many ways long ago outdated as a barometer of rock and pop music trends but he was there at the beginning.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.

To read more reviews and posts by Brian Arsenault click HERE

4 thoughts on “An Appreciation: Farewell Dick Clark

  1. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think American Bandstand was a local Philly show until later in the 50’s, by which time Elvis had been all over national TV many times, not to mention made a movie or two. Rock’n’roll was on TV a lot then because it sold. But I think Dick Clark was the first national show that had it on Saturday mornings, right after the cartoons. He was certainly the one who helped make rock’n’roll safe for nice white teenagers. What had been all Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Bo Diddley et al became Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Fabian and Frankie and Annette. I always thought Dick Clark was one of those guys who cashed in on rock’n’roll by destroying it. Took years to recover. Thank god some English kids discovered Chess Records and took rock’n’roll back again.

    Rock’n’roll has always been a war between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Alan Freed was in league with the Devil. Dick Clark now sings with the angels. Me, I’ll take the evil every time.

    Nice piece, tho’.

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  2. I first saw it when visiting relatives in Wilmington, Delaware so you may have a point. Too cruel on Dick, though. I tried to make the point he didn’t distinguish between the really good stuff and the not so good. He played it all just like AM radio did, junk and good stuff. But he did a lot to break the color barrier for black rockers and early soul artists. Everyone cashed in on it. Freed too. That doesn’t mean he didn’t love rock n roll.

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  3. I shed no tears for Dick Clark, but weep with joy for my memories of
    riding my bike home after school and tossing my book bag on the floor and turning on the old black and white Dumont TV to American Bandstand and dreaming that was me up there on the TV doing the Twist with Chubby Checker and the Stroll with Chuck Willis.

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