Music April 18, 2012
RIP Dick Clark

TV host, radio DJ and entertainment industry icon Dick Clark has died. He passed away today at the age of 82 following a heart attack.

The seemingly ageless Clark, who was born on November 30, 1929, in Mount Vernon, New York, helped bring rock 'n' roll to mainstream America with the show American Bandstand, which began as a radio broadcast and by 1957 had become a smash hit TV program. The show introduced audiences to the latest hits in popular music, and featured performances, interviews and - in its perhaps most defining segment - audience participation, in the form of a "Rate-a-Record" feature that let teenaged participants vote on their favourite song.

(As the Washington Post reports, while the choices made on American Bandstand helped create countless hits, the kids weren't always right: The Beatles failed to impress on first listen, with "She Loves You" and the band's haircuts getting them a thumbs down in 1963.)

Clark's connection to America's teenagers (he was occasionally referred to as "America's Oldest Teenager") - in spite of his insistence on a wholesome image for Bandstand participants, with skirts or dresses for girls and jackets and ties for boys - and his abilities to gauge musical tastes helped establish him as a major player in the TV and music industries. (In 1959, Clark managed to remain untouched by the so-called "payola" scandal, in which records allegedly received more plays on his show in return for money.)

American Bandstand remained on U.S. television until 1989, but was not the only part of Clark's TV legacy. His production company, Dick Clark Productions, was founded in 1957 and continues to produce programming. Clark himself appeared as host in many of its shows, from The Dick Clark Show, the Pyramid game show, and multiple broadcasts of the American Music Awards and the Golden Globe Awards, among others.

But Clark's most enduring role in later years was as host of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, an annual broadcast from New York City's Times Square which celebrated its 40th anniversary this past New Year's. Since its inception in 1972, Clark only missed one New Year's broadcast, after suffering from a stroke ahead of the 2004 broadcast. Clark was replaced that year by Regis Philbin, but returned the following year. His speech, however, had been impaired by the stroke, and his eventually shared hosting duties with Ryan Seacrest.

In his first return broadcast, Clark told audience members, "I had to teach myself how to walk and talk again. It's been a long, hard fight. My speech is not perfect but I'm getting there."

He was back at Times Square for the most recent New Year's Eve (move ahead to 3:35 in the video below to see his appearance):

In 2002, Clark received negative publicity from the Michael Moore documentary Bowling For Columbine, in which the director tries to approach Clark to ask about the working conditions in his chain of restaurants, in particular the practice of hiring welfare recipients. In the movie, Clark refuses to be interviewed.

Clark was married three times, and has three children.

As early as 1959, Clark was famous enough to be the subject of celebrity biography show This Is Your Life, in which some of the biggest pop stars of the day weighed in on the star's life to that point:

For more on the life and legacy of Dick Clark, visit CBC Music.



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