Another iconic figure from my youth is dust in the wind... This has been a day for rock & roll. Clark dies and Levon Helm and Robin Gibbs are both on their death beds in comas.
Black Peter by The Grateful Dead
All of my friends come to see me last night,
I was laying in my bed and dying.
Annie bonneau from st. angel say the weather down there so fine.
Just then the wind came squalling through the dark,
But who can the weather command?
Just want to have a little peace to die,
And a friend or two I love at hand.
Fever roll up to a hundred and five.
Roll on up, gonna roll back down.
One more day I find myself alive,
Tomorrow maybe go beneath the ground.
See here how everything led up to this day,
And its just like any other day thats ever been.
Sun going up and then the sun going down.
Come around, come around.
The people might know, but the people dont care,
That a man can be as poor as me.
Take a look at poor peter, hes lying in pain,
Now lets come run and see, run and see,
Run and see, run, run and see, and see.
by Chuck Barney/San Jose Mercury
Long before "American Idol," there was "American Bandstand," bringing television and pop music together in a harmonious -- and highly profitable -- marriage.
Presiding over it all was Dick Clark, the amiable host with boyish good looks, who helped usher rock 'n' roll into the mainstream and wound up influencing the music industry more than anyone in TV history. Yes, kids, even more than Simon Cowell or Ryan Seacrest.
Clark joined the Philadelphia-based "Bandstand" in 1956 after Bob Horn, who had been the show's host since its 1952 debut, was fired. The following year, it went from a local show to national prominence on ABC. Neither rock music, nor television, would ever be the same.
The format was simple. "I played the records, the kids danced, and America watched," was how Clark described it. And it worked best when the song had a "good beat" that inspired sweet moves on the dance floor.
But something much bigger was stirring in the culture. Rock music at the time was regarded as an "abomination" by many -- especially fretting parents -- and the likes of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis were seen as too wild for mainstream tastes. Television generally avoided controversy, but a then struggling ABC needed to try something "different" to seize attention.
And Clark was the perfect guy to bring rock into America's living rooms. He had a handsome, suit-and-tie image to go along with a glowing smile and a soothing voice honed during years as a radio DJ. He filled the dance floor with wholesome-looking teens and presented a toned-down, sanitized version of a rock show. As author Steven D. Stark wrote in his book "Glued to the Set," it was a good fit "for TV and Middle America."
Adults found him to be nonthreatening and teens appreciated him for putting a face on the music idols who they had previously only connected with via the radio and record albums. By 1959, "Bandstand" was broadcast by 101 affiliates and reached an audience of 20 million. For the music industry, such massive television exposure was pure gold.
"We don't try to preach to anybody, but we help to set a good example for the people watching at home," Clark once told TV Guide, explaining how his show made rock -- and those who practiced it -- more acceptable.
He did have his blind spots. Clark shied away from grittier fare, essentially ignoring the British Invasion and the incredible influence of the Beatles and Rolling Stones. On the other hand, he ended the show's all-white policy, breaking ground for black acts -- a hot-button issue at the time. And he spoke out strongly against censorship.
Beyond "Bandstand," Clark established remarkable staying power in a medium where stars tend to fade fast. He hosted the game show "$10,000 Pyramid" and became a fixture for decades on New Years's Eve with his annual "Rockin' Eve" bash. For millions of viewers, the party couldn't start until Clark did his countdown and showed us the ball dropping in Times Square. And though a 2004 stroke greatly hampered his speech, he defiantly continued with the New Year's gig, impressing us with his bravery.
He even excelled behind the camera, heading a thriving production company that was responsible for "The American Music Awards" and the Golden Globes, to name a few.
But, most significantly, he was the man who spread the gospel of to rock 'n' roll and introduced us to some of the biggest pop artists the world has known. "Music is the soundtrack of your life," he was quoted as saying, and baby boomers everywhere believed.
The great Dick Clark provided this Baby Boomer with countless hours of "wholesome" entertainment, especially many a Saturday (after the morning cartoons). Along with Merv Griffin's "Jeopardy," Clark's Pyramid game show was one of the few game shows I enjoyed growing up. Thank you, Mr. Clark.