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REMEMBERING

“World’s Oldest Teenager”, Dick Clark, Dies at 82.

April 19th, 2012

Dick Clark, 1961. Photo Credit: American Bandstand. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, there’s no such thing as the world’s oldest teenager, but Dick Clark was often called that. Mr. Clark was one of the most famous and important TV personalities of the past 50 years. He looked youthful and boyish throughout his life, which is how he got his nickname.

Very few people have impacted our culture the way Dick Clark has. If you’re young and know who he is, it’s probably from seeing him host the New Year’s Eve countdown on TV in New York’s Times Square. He hosted that show for about 40 years and became synonymous with New Year’s Eve.

But his incredible fame began with a show called American Bandstand . It would be nearly impossible to find someone your parents’ age who hasn’t seen that show or doesn’t know about it. It was a show where teenagers danced to the latest music, including musicians and bands who performed on the show. It sounds like a simple idea but it worked. Millions and millions of people watched the show. Mr. Clark’s characterization of it was simple too, saying, “I played the records, the teenagers danced, America watched.”

Just being on the show made many of the musicians famous, and he introduced Michael Jackson and Madonna to viewers before they were huge stars.

American Bandstand was also one of the first shows that really represented teenagers and their interests. Now, of course, we have channels like MTV and shows like American Idol , but Dick Clark and American Bandstand paved the way.

Dick Clark in 1990 at the Grammy Awards. Photo credit: Alan Light

He also made sure that black artists were on the show in addition to white artists, something that wasn’t, according to news reports, the case until he took over hosting the show in the late 1950s. That was groundbreaking for its time. Even rock ‘n roll music in general was controversial back then.

In addition to American Bandstand and his New Year’s show, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve , Mr. Clark also hosted and owned many other TV programs, including game shows and TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes . He was consistently smiling on our TVs one way or another for over half a century.

Songwriter Hank Ballard once reportedly summed up Mr. Clark’s popularity by saying, “The man was big. He was the biggest thing in America at the time. He was bigger than the President.”

Mr. Clark died of a heart attack at age 82. He will be missed, but his enormous influence on pop culture will continue to be felt for a long time to come.

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