The Loss of a Music Pioneer: Dick Clark 1929-2012

by M-Gillies

Dick Clark's longest running radio show began on February 14, 1982. "Rock, Roll & Remember" lasted until 2004 when Clark suffered a stroke.

Influential television host, music industry pioneer, entrepreneurial producer and America’s oldest teenager, Dick Clark spent over half a century bringing the rebellious new music scene to the forefront and combining it with traditional show business. Throughout his career, he comfortably talked music with the likes of Sam Cooke and joked with Ed McMahon about TV bloopers, and further gave the world American Bandstand, Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve, and created the American Music Awards. On April 18, 2012, Clark died of a heart attack at the age of 82, leaving the world with a legacy of a man who not only was recognized for his youthful looks, but for his youthful personality that made him so enjoyable to watch.

Born on November 30, 1929, Clark began his lifelong career in show business when he began working in the mailroom of upstate New York radio station WRUN, which was owned and managed by his father and uncle. It wasn’t long before he was asked to fill in for the station’s vacationing weatherman, and within months he moved into announcing station breaks.

With his career predestined, Clark moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1952, where he was neighbors with, a then unknown, McMahon. It was here where Clark began disk jockeying for WFIL, occasionally substituting as host for Bob Horns Bandstand before becoming a full time host in 1956 as an afternoon dance show for teenagers. Using a simple formula of featuring clean-cut boys and girls dancing to the newest singles, Clark further encouraged the teens to help rate records, turning songs into instant pop sensations.

Seeing success in the show, ABC television network picked up the show, airing it on August 5, 1957, in which Clark interviewed his first guest Elvis Presley. With the program finding continuous success throughout the country, Clark became synonymous with being the man blazing a new trail for pop music, bridging success for up-and-coming musicians of the time.

It wasn’t long before Clark moved to Hollywood and began his own production company, putting out hit show after hit show before becoming synonymous as the host of Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve in 1972 – the first of an ongoing special broadcasted on New Year’s Eve. With the focus of the program switching between musical segments and clips of Clark live at Times Square in New York City, the world was able to ring in the New Year with Clark as midnight neared.

While Clark’s legacy can be remembered for his annual New Year’s Eve hosting duties in New York or his youthful looks, he’s also remembered as a defender of pop artists and their artistic freedoms, and condemning censorship with a smooth delivery as a seasoned radio announcer with an ear for hit records, Clark earned widespread recognition for his many contributions.

With over 7,500 hours of television programming, including more than 30 series and 250 specials, as well as more than 20 movies for theatre and television, Clark has earned a long list of awards and accolades from Emmys, Grammys, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and an induction in the Rock’N'Roll Hall of Fame.

With his passing, the world has lost an icon, but as Clark always said, “For now, Dick Clark, so long.”

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