During a typical lunch-at-my-desk day at work last week I took a mental break and browsed over to CNN.com.  And my heart fluttered and dropped into my stomach.  There was the late-breaking headline at the top of the page…Dick Clark had passed away.  I slumped down into my chair and sighed.  Man oh man.

Didn’t he seem completely indestructible?  Ageless?  How is this possible that he’s no longer with us?  That slick, made-for-TV presence and voice, yet he seemed very personable and down to earth. 

Now, if you are around age 30-35 or younger, music videos and MTV and the like have pretty much been around your entire life.  Flip on the TV or go on the internet and find what you want to listen to, when you want to.  But in the decades prior to that revolution…there was American Bandstand.  THIS is what I remember as a young girl growing up.  Saturday afternoons.  After the cartoons were done (and perhaps a bunch of negotiating with my folks about how much TV I was allowed to watch)…it was time to watch Bandstand.  Great music and people dancing on the stage.  On the floor and up on cool risers. The clothes, energy…and FUN. Everyone looked so happy and like they were having so much fun.  Damn, I wanted to be up there dancing too! 

A friend of mine had the record album with the theme song on it.  I remember dancing around her bedroom to it as a kid.  She had older brothers, and so it was easy to borrow one of their albums and play it.  We didn’t have a lot of that music in my house growing up. 

“We’re goin’ hoppin’…we’re goin’ hoppin’ today / where things are poppin’ the Philadelphia way / we’re gonna drop in on all the music they play on the Bandstand (Bandstand)…”  Ahhh, ya gotta love Barry Manilow. That’s the start of the Bandstand Boogie, by the way.  The show always opened and closed with that theme song as long as I can remember, so it’s seered deep in my brain.

But Bandstand had been on the air long before I was old enough to discover it.  In reading all the stories bubbling up on line after the news of Mr. Clark’s passing, I was stunned.  He’d hosted that show for over 30 years!  Can you imagine the thousands of people he met over that time period?  And new artists getting their big breaks performing on that show.  I remember a young Madonna performing one of her songs in the early 1980s when she was just starting out, and Mr. Clark interviewing her afterwards.  What was her goal, he asked her?  “…to rule the world,” Madonna replied.   So, how’s she doing so far, everyone?  Not too shabby a career I’d say.

So if Bandstand wasn’t ever on your radar, I bet most everyone has seen or heard of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.  A New Year’s Eve tradition.  A mainstay. I remember as a kid I was often left home with a babysitter as my folks would go out for new years.  And the babysitter would let me stay up until midnight and watch the ball drop in Times Square.  Sooooo cool.  And as an adult if I didn’t have New Years Eve plans…well, Mr. Clark was always there.  A TV BFF I could count on to entertain me as we got ready to welcome another new year.

Like many, I was saddened to hear of his stroke a few years ago.  And shocked when he made his reappearance on his show the following New Year’s.  It was like he had aged 100 years overnight.  His speech impaired from his stroke.  My hat’s off at that brave effort.  The man belonged on TV no matter what.

I’ve been reading a few articles about his life and career and incredible influence these past few days.  He’s quoted as summarizing up Bandstand like this: “I played records, the kids danced, and America watched.”  Ahhhh, but Mr. Clark, it was SO much more than that.   

Thank you, Mr. Clark.  Such a tremendous legacy you’ve left us. 

Do you have a favorite memory from Bandstand?  Or New Year’s Rockin’ Eve?  Please share!

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