Dick Clark, R.I.P.

Dick ClarkHello Music Lovers,

Dick Clark has passed away aged 82.  Much of the news about Clark casts him as a television personality, for example Fox News calls him a ‘TV pioneer’ and Huffington Post refers to him as ‘TV legend’.  Clark was both a TV pioneer and legend all right, but TV was only his medium: for Dick Clark was all about *music* first and last.

More than music in general, Dick Clark was about *rock ‘n’ roll* – without Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand’, ABC’s hit programme, the future of rock ‘n’ roll may have been very different.  Here’s a clue: Yahoo News writes: “Everyone showed up on ‘American Bandstand,’ from Elvis Presley to Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry to Chubby Checker.”  All four singers named are rock ‘n’ roll singers (the twist is a rock ‘n’ roll variant).

Also, it was on American Bandstand that Elvis broke out and first caused a nationwide sensation in  the 50s.  No Dick Clark, no Elvis?  Well, at least things wouldn’t have turned out quite the same, that’s for sure.

Clark is also well-known for his “Rockin’ Eve” show on New Year’s Eve, which got underway in the early 70s.  He also produced and hosted innumerable shows and specials and won equally innumerable awards.  He was very active in the business world and owned a stake in a slew of successful ventures, becoming wealthy in the process.

That said Dick Clark is best remembered for ‘Bandstand’ and for something else – his personality and personal integrity.  Most persons who knew him have nothing but praise for his sincerity and generosity.  His character is revealed by his attitude towards race-relations from the get-go as he looked disfavourably upon segregation.  His policy, back in the 50s, was one of racially-integrated audiences.  He also gave equal time to African-American performers.  Considering that he took his stance against segregation during the 1950s, before the Civil Rights Act, besides being generous Clark was also a fair-minded and courageous man.

In the era of the ‘cover version’ Dick Clark also supported black artistes by inviting them to perform their original songs.  I suppose the best known cover version – practically the symbol of the practice – is Pat Boone’s (pretty good) cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame.”  (The least known?  I think the Diamonds’ grotesque cover of The Gladiolas thrilling ‘Little Darling’.)  Clark thereby gave overdue exposure to black artists, bringing them to the eyes and ears of white audiences.

Clark had been in poor health since 2004, being laid low by diabetes and a minor stroke which had affected his speech, and from which he had battled to recover.  He passed away while undergoing a heart procedure.

Dick Clark may be dead; his musical legacy is alive and well – you’re listening to it.

Shane

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