LOS ANGELES Dick Clark stood as an avatar of rock n roll virtually from its birth, and until his death Wednesday at age 82, as a cultural touchstone for boomers and their grandkids alike.
His identity as the worlds oldest teenager became strained in recent years, as time and infirmity caught up with his enduring boyishness. But he owned New Years Eve after four decades hosting his annual telecast on ABC from Times Square. And as a producer and entertainment entrepreneur, he was a media titan: His Dick Clark Productions supplied movies, game shows, beauty contests and more to TV, and, for a time in the 1980s, he boasted programs on all three networks.
Equally comfortable chatting about music with Sam Cooke or bantering with Ed McMahon on TVs Bloopers and Practical Jokes, Clark was listed among the Forbes 400 of wealthiest Americans. Clark, who died of a heart attack Wednesday at a Santa Monica hospital, was also part of radio as a partner in the United Stations Radio Network, which provided programs including Clarks to thousands of stations.
Theres hardly any segment of the population that doesnt see what I do, Clark told The Associated Press in a 1985 interview. It can be embarrassing. People come up to me and say, I love your show, and I have no idea which one theyre talking about.
One of his later TV projects, American Dreams, served as a fitting weekly tribute to Clarks impact. Airing from 2002 to 2005, this NBC drama centered on a Philadelphia family in the early 1960s and, in particular, on 15-year-old Meg, who, through a quirk of fate, found her way onto the set of Clarks teen dance show, American Bandstand.
The nostalgic American Dreams depicted a musical revolution, which Clark so reassuringly helped usher in against the backdrop of a nation in turmoil. While never a hit, the series was embraced by older viewers as a warm souvenir of the era that spawned Clark, and as an affectionate history lesson for their children and grandchildren.
President Barack Obama noted the nostalgia. More important than his groundbreaking achievements was the way he made us feel as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was, Obama said in a statement.
Clark bridged the rebellious new music scene and traditional show business. He defended pop artists and artistic freedom, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said in an online biography of the 1993 inductee. He helped give black artists their due by playing original R&B recordings instead of cover versions by white performers, and he condemned censorship.