One day when I was about five years old, I rushed home from school as I did every afternoon to watch my favorite TV show, “The Adventures of Superman.” Only that day, Superman wasn’t on and my mother informed me it wasn’t going to be on anymore. It had been replaced by a program with big kids dancing to music. I was devastated. It was horrible! I remember falling on my parent’s bed and crying my heart out. The program that replaced my beloved show was “American Bandstand” hosted by Dick Clark who passed away today at the age of 82.
Well, six or seven years later, after Bandstand went from a daily program to a weekly one, I looked forward to it as eagerly as I once did Superman. In those days, the early to mid ‘60’s, “Bandstand” was one of the few opportunities you had to see rock performers on TV. There was the Saturday airings of Clark’s show, along with the Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night show, which featured a rock group each week, and Rick Nelson’s weekly song at the end of Ozzie and Harriet. Believe it or not, that was about it. Sure, at one point we also had “Hullabaloo” and “Shindig”, but those shows didn’t last long.
Fast forward to the end of the ‘60’s and Dick Clark was just a tad bit uncool. After all, he insisted that everyone who performed on his show lip-sync instead of play live and he tended to favor teenybopper or bubblegum music, which was strictly kid’s stuff.
Today, in retrospect, Dick Clark’s contribution to rock and roll is impressive, and nothing less than massive. It’s on a par with contributions by Elvis, the Beatles and Stones, and Bob Dylan. Different, but just as significant. Clark, too, was one of the real unsung heroes of the civil rights movement for his championing of black music, not to mention that “American Bandstand” was without a doubt the first show on television to feature blacks and white dancing together. He deserves much credit for breaking down racial barriers.
So, a tip of the hat to “America’s oldest teenager,” and as Dick used to end each Bandstand show, “so long.”
Sad, as well, to hear disturbing news about two other rock legends. Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, battling cancer for the last year, has slipped into a coma, and the end is feared near. And the family of Levon Helm, co-founder, drummer and vocalist for the Band, who made music history with Bob Dylan and on their own, has announced that he is “in the final stages of his battle with cancer.”
On top of this, one of my dear family members in Oregon is struggling to survive pneumonia and complications from a stroke, and it’s not looking good.
As the old blues song goes, death don’t have no mercy in this land . . .
The title of this post comes from the oft repeated line from Bandstand’s famous “Rate A Record” segment.