5 Ways Dick Clark Revolutionized the TV and Music Industry
By marrying images to music, blurring color lines, and narrowing the gap between fans and phenoms, the multihyphenate changed pop culture forever.
Dick Clark may be gone, but the broadcast icon leaves behind an enduring legacy that can be felt in every corner of popular culture. Here are five ways he changed the entertainment landscape forever.
1. He Invented Music Television
The show by which Clark will forever be best identified is American Bandstand, which debuted nationally on ABC in the summer of 1957. By 1958, the show was drawing 40 million viewers a week and was a full-blown pop culture phenomenon. Clark was a natural as the affable, smooth-voiced host of a teen dance party that broke countless new artists as it launched a rock n’ roll revolution.
That combustible marriage of pop music to images laid the groundwork for everything from MTV to American Idol and beyond.
2. He Encouraged the Integration of Pop Music
From Bandstand's beginning, Clark had committed to integrating the show. The image of a racially diverse crowd of teenagers doing “The Twist” right alongside Chubby Checker is among Bandstand’s most indelible, and would later be dramatized in movies like Hairspray and on NBC’s American Dreams (which Clark produced). In 1958, Clark curated and promoted the first racially integrated pop concert – a fact fondly recalled by the estate of Michael Jackson.
"It still wasn't acceptable for them to dance with white kids, so the blacks just danced with each other. We were waiting for the explosion, but it never happened," Clark said in a 1998 interview with Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine. "The wonderful part about our decision to integrate then was that there were no repercussions, no reverberations, no battles at all — it just happened right there on a television screen in front of millions of people."
3. He Democratized Award Shows
As an antidote to the exclusive Grammy Awards, which were voted upon by members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Clark created the American Music Awards for ABC in 1973, which determined its winners based on a poll of all music buyers. The result was a sexier and more accessible show with Top 40 appeal. Two years later, the People’s Choice Awards would follow suit.
It’s a concept that would presage the current entertainment landscape, where audience tastes – whether dictated via social media or phoned-in reality show votes – rule.
4. He Made New Year’s Eve a Real Party
Until New Year’s Rockin’ Eve debuted in the early 1970s, it was Guy Lombardo, a creaky bandleader from another generation, who rang in the New Year. Clark changed all that, setting the whole broadcast inside “crossroads of the world” Times Square, and bringing in younger acts like The Pointer Sisters and Linda Ronstadt.
The raucous annual event, which this year featured acts like LMFAO, Florence + the Machine and Nicki Minaj, now sets the tone for celebrations nationwide.
5. He Was the Original “Multihyphenate”
The same year Clark debuted as host of American Bandstand, he had the foresight to think big – really big – and founded Dick Clark Productions. In the half-century that followed, DCP oversaw a vast array of projects, with Clark wearing multiple hats on shows like TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes on NBC (a kinder, gentler Punk’d), the Rockin’ Eve specials, and multiple award shows, including the AMAs, the Daytime Emmys and Golden Globes.
Clark promoted hundreds of concerts every year, launched his own chain restaurants and theaters, and famously hosted shows simultaneously on the big three networks – The $20,000 Pyramid on ABC, Live Wednesday on CBS and Bloopers on NBC – back in the 1980s. He even trail-blazed the arena of radio syndication, launching a national countdown show in 1963 before anyone else was doing so.
Clark’s net worth is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars – not quite the billion left behind by Merv Griffin, but certainly enough to ensure him a lasting place among Hollywood’s most business-savvy visionaries.
Ashton Kutcher and Ryan Seacrest are taking notes.