Rock 'n' roll may be here to stay, but the impresarios who brought it to us are only human. Bill Graham of Fillmore fame was killed in a helicopter crash in 1991. The two Dons, Kirshner of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and Cornelius of Soul Train, died recently in their mid-seventies. Now, the “World's Oldest Teenager,” Dick Clark, has ceased being the world's oldest teenager, aged 82.
In the annals of Baby Boom nostalgia, it would be difficult to think of a more ubiquitous figure than the slight, grinning Syracuse graduate with the microphone in hand and carefully Brylcreemed hair. Dick Clark was one of those show business entrepreneurs whose good luck coincided with the pop-culture zeitgeist: The host of a mid-1950s afternoon dance program in Philadelphia, he found himself unexpectedly positioned at the intersection of the origins of rock music and American teenage culture. By 1957 American Bandstand was on network television, and Dick Clark had become the honorary intermediary between rock 'n' roll and the rest of America, interviewing future inductees into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and rewarding pimply jitterbuggers with national exposure.
It was the peculiar genius of Dick Clark that he managed to survive the British invasion of the middle 1960s and adapt to the gradual integration of rhythm and blues into mainstream pop music. The acts, styles, and trends came and went, and the bands rose and split apart with regularity; but Dick Clark remained seemingly ageless, still encased in a coat and tie and clutching his microphone while extolling rappers and punk rockers to an audience that could not have remembered his prime-time Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show (1958-60) featuring Buddy Holly and Fabian.
In recent years, as a game-show mogul and Hollywood producer, Dick Clark's acquaintance with the public was largely confined to his annual New Year's Rockin' Eve broadcasts from Times Square, and a debilitating stroke eight years ago left him barely able to speak. It was frankly painful to watch him croak a few sentences in exchange with Ryan Seacrest every New Year's Eve, but even that spectacle was on its way to becoming traditional when he died, suddenly, of a "massive heart attack."