Legendary American Bandstand host Dick Clark has died on Wednesday at age 82 after suffering a massive heart attack, the Washington Post reports:
The seemingly ageless Mr. Clark, with his wholesome appearance and ever-present grin, was promoted as “America's oldest teenager” and was among the most powerful arbiters of pop-music taste for 35 years.
He was regarded as a man with an unerring sense of what Americans wanted to hear and see, and he achieved his greatest renown for an ability to connect with the tastes of the post-World War II baby boom.
From 1952 to 1987, Mr. Clark hosted various incarnations of “American Bandstand,” first over the radio in Philadelphia and later on national television. The program was a sensation because of the prominent role it gave teenagers — who were always shown clean-cut in jackets, ties and sweaters — to vote on their favorite song.
According to his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame biography, Clark, by playing R&B records by the original artists on his show, helped to stop the long-standing practice whereby records by black artists were "covered" by white artists, thereby depriving them of income and recognition. Buddy Holly, James Brown and others made their national debut on the program.
In his 1976 autobiography, Rock, Roll, and Remember, Clark recalled, "Bandstand was a segregated show for years. It became integrated in 1957 because I elected to make it so … I was also aware that rock 'n' roll and Bandstand owed their existences to black music and the black artists who sang it. By the time I had the show a year I knew it had to be integrated. Tony [Mammarella] and I made sure we had black representation which increased as the years went by."
But recently Matthew Delmont, author of The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock 'n' Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia, challenged Bandstand's reputation as "one of the first integrated shows on national television," saying, "They didn't have a formal policy that said 'no blacks allowed' … They had a host of very underhanded techniques they would use to keep black teens off the show."
Watch Clark's American Bandstand interview with the Commodores here:
Read more at the Washington Post.