Before Ed Sullivan gave us The Beatles, Dick Clark gave us…well, just about everybody else via his pioneering "American Bandstand" show. Unlike colorful radio personalities such as Murray the K and Cousin Brucie, Dick Clark was a laidback guy who simply gave fans the music they wanted to hear. He let the musicians have the spotlight As with Johnny Carson, he weathered changes well and remained a likable TV host for decades. He added a variety of TV series and quiz shows to his hosting resume, from Blooper compilations to the "$25,000 Pyramid." Never too old to rock and roll, he produced the "Rockin' New Year's Eve" as an alternative to "The Tonight Show" and the Guy Lombardo style of television celebration that had marked midnight.
You'll find plenty more about him with any obit search. My encounters with him were minimal…I was invited to a photo op when he launched one of his shows, exchanged letters now and then regarding some performers or some trivia from the past, and he always was pleasant and professional; a good guy.
It's a measure of the man that even some of the most prickly people in show biz paid him tribute yesterday. Roseanne Barr remembered him as "Always a nice man." Dane Cook wrote: "Rest in peace Mr. Dick Clark. Thank you for new years and new years of class, positivity and entertainment." Joan Rivers said, "What a great life. What a great career. Relevant until the end." And he was. Although his 2004 stroke seriously affected his ability to speak, and Ryan Seacrest was really the host of "Rockin' New Year's Eve," Clark turned up for a cameo every year, and it was lovely to see. Some idiots wanted him kicked off the show for being a "downer," even if his sound bytes were just a few 30 seconds here and there, but his presence was an inspiration; he was still with us, making it to a new year, even with physical problems, keeping on rockin' as we all try to do.
Even though his speech was not perfect, and he was finally beginning to actually look somewhat octogenarian, Dick Clark remained, as Joan Rivers said, "relevant." He remained young. That spirit leads to the tribute song: "I Wanna Die Young at a Very Old Age." It's about a guy who died at 82, as Clark did, and it's sung by C&W great Charlie Louvin who kept singing and recording to the very end:
"I wanna die young at a very old age. Make life worth living each and every day… Gramps was sharp as a tack at 82, acting half his age, kickin' up his shoes. I never thought of him as old, to me he was just a kid full grown….hope that I'm that young when I'm that old…"
"I Wanna Die Young..." Charlie Louvin.