Dick Clark may have been the most under-the-radar revolutionary of all time.
Dick Clark didn’t dance. He didn’t sing or play guitar or bang on a drum. And yet, he introduced the most influential rock acts of all time to the world and defined new genres.
Dick Clark didn’t carry a sign in protest. He didn’t organize sit-ins or circulate petitions. And yet, he broke down color barriers and brought racial integration into America’s living rooms.
Dick Clark didn’t strut the latest fashion. He was dapper as could be with nary a hair out of place. And yet, he was instrumental in defining the rebellious, rock and roll style of generations of teenagers, and even for defining the very concept of “teenager.”
Even though he hasn’t ushered in the New Year since 2012, his influence will still be felt when Ryan Seacrest takes the helm for New Years’ Rockin’ Eve 2018 in a few days.
Dick Clark’s moxie was affable and gregarious. In times when change roiled the nation, he introduced us to sweeping cultural and civic movements with a disarming grin, and gentle encouragement to just listen. Steadily, one song at a time, Clark helped us listen to people who did not look, act, dance or sing like us. In the act of that listening, we learned to enjoy one another.
If I had the chance to interview Clark, here’s what I would ask:
“What is the next big cultural movement headed our way? Who are we going to be listening to in 2018?”
Clark said quite candidly that he didn’t invent trends; he was just good at spotting them and making the most of them. By bringing dancing teens into living rooms across the country via American Bandstand, Clark paired music with images and paved the way for music videos. It can even be argued that American Bandstand was an early foray into reality television.
I’d love to know what he thought was going to be the Next Big Thing.
“How did you manage to make such big changes without becoming a political figure or a lightning rod for controversy?”
Clark was proud that he staged one of the first integrated pop concerts in 1958, despite threats from the Ku Klux Klan.
When it came to crossing racial barriers without conflict, Clark seemed to have the magic touch. He gave African-American acts a platform to perform, and once American Bandstand moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, he began integrating the audience, too.
And he did it all without watching the world burn. In this time of heightened strife, I’d love to know his secret.
“How did you pivot from one project to the next?”
Clark’s career spanned radio and television and live events. He hosted dance shows and countdowns and game shows. He even dabbled in acting, and made guest appearances as himself. His creativity and success seemed to know no bounds.
But there were boundaries for his success, and Clark did meet failure along the way.
“If you fall down, get up and walk again. If you can’t walk, crawl. If that idea fails, have another one,” said Clark. “I have failed a lot in my life. You know, I’m making two or three pitches today. Maybe one of them will work, but I’ve made two or three. And I’ll do another four or five tomorrow. It doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a lot of hard work.”
Heartening words for a media entrepreneur like me to hear, and to heed. That’s the very definition of moxie – getting up and trying again.
If you had the chance to talk to “the world’s oldest teenager” what would you say? Would you ask him a question about how he made history, or what he saw coming next? Would you share with him how he influenced you? Share your thoughts below.
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