Wow, so Dick Clark, the “World’s Oldest Teenager” is gone. Hard to believe. He always seemed to be one of those people you expected to be around forever. Yet another of the icons of my youth is history, something that seems to be happening with gradually increasing regularity lately.
I’m too young to have seen American Bandstand at its peak int he 1950s and ’60s, but it was a regular fixture of my Saturday afternoons in the ’70s. In small-town middle America, there was no local club, no hangout, no gathering place for music and dancing. But there was Bandstand, reliable as ever, to show us the latest bands, dance steps and fashion — polyester and platforms, anyone? — of the era. And Dick Clark was the kindly uncle to shepherd us through the brave new world of singer-songwriters, pop divas and disco the big cities were enjoying.
Keep in mind this was all way before the Internet, YouTube, blogs, or even cable tv. We had three channels on television and small-town radio stations that signed off at sunset. Bandstand was a window to a new world, one with infinitely more possibilities than our tiny little speck of the map could ever envision.
Perhaps even more influential though was New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. I can still remember how exciting it was when the very first edition aired, December 31, 1972. I was so excited — as only a newly-minted teenager could be — to have an alternative to the boring old Guy Lombardo’s ritual “Auld Lang Syne.” Finally, here was something in touch with MY music, with MY generation!
Yes, I realize that today’s younger folks probably regard “N.Y.R.E.” the same way I considered Lombardo way back when. But that doesn’t’ detract from the revolutionary nature of the show back then, or the enjoyment I’ve continued to derive from it even as recently as last December. Over the years, I’ve traded toasting 1973 with Dr. Pepper and my parents for toasting 2012 with champagne and my wife, but it’s still great to ring in a new year with some good music. And I have Dick Clark to thank for bringing that into my life.
I’ll leave it to others to opine about Clark’s many other shows and business accomplishments, and his personal traits. All I can say is that for one young man in one very small town, he made the world a brighter, more exciting place, and I thank him for that.
Rest in peace, Dick. New Year’s Eve won’t be the same without you.