9:12 AM EDT, April 19, 2012
Dick Clark accumulated a lot of critics over the years. Somehow they came to the conclusion that he was often pandering to lowest common denominators in his various television presentations.
As far as I am concerned those critics were either blind to reality or just plain jealous.
I saw the first national broadcast of American Bandstand when it moved from WFIL in Philadelphia to ABC and I was hooked. It became the first ever must see TV for me and millions of other young Americans as we raced home from school to see the those really cool Philly kids dancing to the sounds of the biggest and freshest rock and roll stars.
Those critics who labeled Clark as Mr. Wonderbread could not have been more off base or just looking through a rear view mirror. Take a look on line at the videos that are circulating right now. My goodness, it was 1957 and there was Clark introducing America to the latest rages, many of whom were African Americans. The best eulogy delivered in the hours after Clark’s death came from Smokey Robinson, who made it clear that seeing The Miracles on television was a lot different than hearing them on the radio. What he meant was that Dick Clark made it possible for Americans of all backgrounds to appreciate a black artist or group as much as the white artists. And just let me say now that getting a eulogy from Smokey Robinson would be better than winning the lottery.
Yes, Clark was calculating and knew exactly where he was headed, and where TV was headed, but he also took chances. Look closely at those black and white videos and you will see black and white youngsters sitting together in the audience, even at a time when in parts of this country black and white people could not use the same restrooms, eat in the same restaurants or even sit together in the front of a bus. Then one day something happened that was actually revolutionary: a black woman was on the floor dancing with a white man. I was too young then to read or hear or even care if some alleged adult in the media made a federal case of this, but I do know that none of the kids in my circle seemed bothered one bit.
But let us put aside the cultural breakthroughs, because what Dick Clark did above all else was have terrific judgment on good rock and roll. What a treat it was to see those “idols” that you had only heard before on a 45 rpm.
As far as I am concerned Dick Clark was an American cultural icon and one of those people who, in his very special way, brought great joy to my life growing up. Heaven now has its own DJ.
Rock on brother, rock on.
Copyright © 2013, WSBT-TV