Many of us never thought it would happen. The “world’s oldest teenager,” Dick Clark, has died. He was 82.
Despite declining health (and suffering a stroke eight years ago), Clark’s death was unexpected and sudden. He reportedly suffered a massive heart attack last night after an outpatient medical procedure at a Los Angeles hospital. His passing has sent shockwaves through the industry, resulting in an overwhelming flood of gratitude and love from fans and industry bigwigs alike across the Twitterverse and other media outlets.
Host of American Bandstand (which ran from 1957-1987); creator and host of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve (which began in 1974 and still airs every New Year’s Eve); creator of the American Music Awards—not to mention hosting numerous game shows and variety shows on television—to say that Dick Clark was an icon of the entertainment business would be an understatement, to say the least. More accurate to say that without Dick Clark, the entertainment business would not exist in its current form. Ever the cheerleader for up-and-coming talent, Dick Clark was instrumental in launching and/or rescuing the careers of countless musical artists. Never could this be more poignantly expressed than by a recent statement by vocal legend Connie Francis:
“Without Dick Clark there would have been no career because I was ready to abandon it…I remember hearing Dick Clark say ‘There’s a new girl singer and she’s headed straight for number one.’ And I said, ‘Good luck to whoever that is’ but then he played my song, ‘Who’s Sorry Now.’ We thought the thing was dead because it had been out three months, but then he played it every day until it sold a million records.”
From humble beginnings fresh out of high school, as the host of a local country music television show, Dick Clark went on to have one of the longest and most successful careers in entertainment history, with an estate estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars at the time of his death.
For many, Clark was a symbol of perpetual youth, not just because of his boyish looks and apparent refusal to age, but also because he never lost his appeal through multiple generations of pop and rock music. He seemed as genuinely excited about new rock acts in the 21st century as he was in the 1950s. “Relevant to the end,” tweeted Joan Rivers yesterday.
Even as the world mourns his death, Dick Clark’s broad legacy will continue and be celebrated for many years to come. As Ryan Seacrest said of his mentor last night on American Idol, “Without Dick, a show like this would not exist.”
Rest in peace, Dick Clark. You will be sorely and deeply missed.