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Dick Clark, 'America's oldest teenager,' passes at age 82

By Eduardo Sayago
On April 20, 2012

Dick Clark, often known as "America's Oldest Teenager", died Wednesday at the ripe old age of 82 from a heart attack.

He is often credited with legitimatizing rock 'n' roll music and bringing the beloved music to the masses. At a time when segregation dominated American life, Clark brought many black artists, including James Brown, The Supremes and the Temptations to the mainstream. The audience was desegregated, which infuriated many who did not want their children to mix with others who didn't look like them.

Millions of young people danced to the songs, bought the records and requested the songs on their favorite rock 'n' roll radio stations, which were at their peak in the 1950's and 1960's. Pop culture and youth culture were mixed together. For the first time, young folks had a say in what music they were going to listen and dance to.

Here are highlights from the extraordinary entertainer and media mogul's life and career.

American Bandstand

For decades, "American Bandstand," which began as a local afternoon program in Philadelphia, was where young people got ahold of their new music. A band or singer knew they made it when Dick Clark talked to you after a performance. Clark was a superb MC. He was comfortable and confident when talking to the performers. He made it seem too easy to chit-chat with some of the biggest names in music, often feeling like friends just stopped by to perform and talk to Clark in his living room. It's because of Clark that countless of MCs, television personalities, disc jockeys, and others were able to go in front of an audience and emcee effortlessly.

In one of their first television appearances, the Beach Boys talk to Clark about the creative process behind songwriting, surfing and summer plans to tour across the country.

James Brown dances across the dance floor before Clark catches up with the legendary showman, who visited the studio several times over the years. Clark has to remind Brown that he's on television and has to make sure his back isn't facing the millions watching at home.

Clark created the American Music Awards as an alternative to the Grammy Awards, which did not recognize pop music often back in the 1970s. These awards were a popularity contest. The winners were determined by a poll of music buyers. The first awards show took place in 1973.

Dick Clark Productions

Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve

The (New) $25,000 Pyramid

Clark won several Daytime Emmy Awards for his hosting duties on the game show "Pyramid", which ran on CBS and ABC from 1973-1988. Like "American Bandstand", Clark was affable and comfortable in the host's chair.

Michael Moore's documentary "Bowling for Columbine"

Of course, no man is perfect. When it was discovered that eating establishments owned by "America's Oldest Teenager" were involved in the controversial "Welfare-to-Work" program created by the Clinton administration, Michael Moore attempts to confront Clark about these questionable business choices. In the Academy Award-winning documentary, a single, black mother is working over 80 hours a week while unable to pay the bills. Her son, a first-grader who is often left to fend for himself, brought a gun to school and shot a fellow student. Clark refused to talk to Moore about the issue.

"American Dreams"

From 2002 to 2005, this NBC period drama showcased a Philadelphia teenage girl (Brittany Snow) who appeared as a regular on "American Bandstand" in the early 1960s. Numerous contemporary artists made guest cameos as 60s-era artists.

Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve

In 2004, Clark suffered a stroke that left him unable to host his New Year's Rockin' Eve show, which he has hosted since 1974 on ABC. With his speech limited, Clark cut back his public appearances. Ryan Seacrest would take over Clark's shoes (in more ways than one), although Clark would make a cameo appearance on the specials. Here is Clark, struggling with his speech despite having a smile on his face, counting down to greet the year 2012. There is no word yet on how ABC will proceed with the future of the special.


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