Dick Clark, the ever-youthful television host and producer who helped bring rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream on “American Bandstand” and rang in the New Year for the masses at Times Square, died of a heart attack Wednesday in a Santa Monica hospital where he had gone for an outpatient procedure. He was 82.

Clark had continued performing even after he suffered a stroke in 2004 that affected his ability to speak and walk.

Long dubbed “America’s Oldest Teenager” because of his boyish appearance, Clark bridged the rebellious new music scene and traditional show business.

He was equally comfortable chatting about music with Sam Cooke or bantering with Ed McMahon about TV bloopers. He long championed black singers by playing the original R&B versions of popular songs, rather than the pop cover.

He thrived as the founder of Dick Clark Productions, supplying movies, game and music shows and beauty contests to TV. Among his credits: “The $25,000 Pyramid,” “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes” and the American Music Awards.

“Dick Clark was a true pioneer who revolutionized the way we listened to and consumed music,” record executive Clive Davis said. “For me he ranks right up there with the giants of our business.”

For a time in the 1980s, he had shows on all three networks and was listed among the Forbes 400 of wealthiest Americans. Clark also was part of radio as partner in the United Stations Radio Network, which provided programs — including Clark’s — to thousands of stations.

“There’s hardly any segment of the population that doesn’t see what I do,” Clark said in a 1985 interview. “It can be embarrassing. People come up to me and say, ‘I love your show,’ and I have no idea which one they’re talking about.”

The original “American Bandstand” was one of network TV’s longest-running series as part of ABC’s daytime lineup from 1957 to 1987.

The program was a sensation because of the prominent role it gave teenagers — who were always shown clean-cut in jackets, ties and sweaters — to vote on their favorite song.

Record industry executives paid attention to the young tastemakers, who were not always perfect in their judgment. The teens in 1963 had given the Beatles a thumbs down for “She Loves You” and their mop-top hairdos.

By the show’s 30th anniversary, almost 600,000 teenagers and 10,000 performers had appeared on the program. Among those to make early national appearances included Buddy Holly, James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner, and Simon and Garfunkel. Dance crazes such as the Twist and the Watusi could be traced to the “Bandstand” studio.

Clark joined “Bandstand” in 1956 after Bob Horn, who’d been the host since its 1952 debut, was fired. Under Clark’s guidance, it went from a local Philadelphia show to a national phenomenon.

“I played records, the kids danced, and America watched,” was how Clark once described the series’ simplicity. In his 1958 hit “Sweet Little Sixteen,” Chuck Berry sang that “they’ll be rocking on Bandstand, Philadelphia, P-A.”

As a host, he had the smooth delivery of a seasoned radio announcer. As a producer, he had an ear for a hit record. He also knew how to make wary adults welcome this odd new breed of music in their homes.

Clark endured accusations that he was in with the squares, with critic Lester Bangs defining Bandstand as “a leggily acceptable euphemism of the teenage experience.”

In a 1985 interview, Clark acknowledged the complaints. “But I knew at the time that if we didn’t make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it.”

“So along with Little Richard and Chuck Berry and the Platters and the Crows and the Jayhawks … the boys wore coats and ties and the girls combed their hair and they all looked like sweet little kids into a high school dance,” he said.

But Clark defended pop artists and artistic freedom, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said in an online biography of the 1993 inductee. He helped give black artists their due by playing original R&B recordings instead of cover versions by white performers, he invited black teens on his shows and he condemned censorship.

He was born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1929. His father, Richard Augustus Clark, was a sales manager who worked in radio.

Clark began his career in the mailroom of a Utica, N.Y., radio station in 1945. By age 26, he was a broadcasting veteran, with nine years’ experience on radio and TV stations in Syracuse and Utica, N.Y., and Philadelphia.

He held a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. While in Philadelphia, Clark befriended Ed McMahon, who later credited Clark for introducing him to his future “Tonight Show” boss, Johnny Carson.

He was also an author, with “Dick Clark’s American Bandstand” and such self-help books as “Dick Clark’s Program for Success in Your Business and Personal Life” and “Looking Great, Staying Young.”

Source : Music giant Dick Clark dies at 82 – Richmond Times Dispatch

Advertisements