American Bandstand host and rock music-promoting smoothie Dick Clark has left the earth. He died earlier today of a heart attack at age 82. Clark’s peak influence period was from the mid ’50s to early ’60s. In Eisenhower-era America early rock music (i.e., “Hound Dog” Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.) had a slightly racy and raunchy vibe. Clark came along and basically sold watered-down rock to middle-class America (kids, parents, advertisers) by making it seem safe and unthreatening. Which wasn’t hard.
Clark’s hottest period, then, was the late ’50s to pre-British Invasion early ’60s when pop and early Motown and “wop rock” and teen bubblegum tunes ran the hit parade — Ricky Nelson, Fabian, Danny and the Juniors, Frankie Avalon, Dion and the Belmonts, the Four Seasons, etc.
Clark loved ’50s and ’60s music, for sure, but he was first and foremost (in my eyes, at least) a hustler and a businessman whose eye was always on the dollar. I mean, the man’s name was all but synonymous with Beech-nut spearmint gum and the term “flavorific.” Beech-nut spearmint gum, Beech-nut spearmint gum, Beech-nut spearmint gum, Beech-nut spearmint gum, Beech-nut spearmint gum, Beech-nut spearmint gum…until they’re repeating it in their sleep and it’s coming out of their ears. Hammer it, hammer it!
Clark was always so handsome and young-looking and constantly active — the very model of a guy who seemed to live right, eat right, always stay trim and never age that much. But sooner or later the natural process starts weakening and taking you down and then your number comes up and that’s it.