Rock 'n' roll's ambassador

Dick Clark left a lasting impression on our popular culture

Generations of music-craving, TV-watching kids almost could have grown up watching Bob Horn’s Bandstand.

But when Horn, a popular Philadelphia-area media personality, was convicted of drunken driving in 1956, the duties of hosting his popular regional TV dance show fell to the part-time host, a disc jockey at a sister radio station.

That DJ was Dick Clark.

And Dick Clark went on to forever change how America enjoyed popular music.

Clark died Wednesday at age 82. But much of what he touched professionally is vibrantly alive.

Less than a year after taking over as Bandstand’s host, Clark pitched the idea to ABC to take the show nationwide. That historic programming move bestowed upon Clark an ambassadorship for rock ’n’ roll, at a time when the young music genre faced much public scorn.

Clark conveyed the clean-cut image rock music needed to elevate it to legitimacy. American Bandstand found its way into millions of homes before leaving the air in 1989. Clark fused music and television into a new brand of entertainment decades before MTV managed to get around to it.

But beyond that historic show, Clark’s media company also loomed large. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, writes Forbes magazine, Clark’s company “is responsible for more than 7,500 hours of television programming, including over 30 series and 250 specials, plus more than 20 movies for theater and television.”

How big of an impact did he have on pop culture? On another show, The Dick Clark Show, from 1958 to 1960, he would dramatically count down the 10 most popular songs for the coming week.

That’s right. You see such lists everywhere now, but many people credit Clark for creating the very first top-10 list.

The fresh-faced Clark lived up to his moniker “America’s oldest teenager,” and will be missed.

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