Sad news: Consummate New Year's Eve date, television host, and all-around classy guy Dick Clark has died at the age of 82. Clark's agent, Paul Shefrin, said in a statement to ABC that the star had died after a "massive heart attack" Wednesday morning. ABC mostly remembers Clark for his work hosting American Bandstand, but even though that probably best defines his career, we'll always remember him most clearly as the permanent host of Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve, which he hosted for more than 30 years until his 2004 stroke prevented him from leading the show (he still appeared with new host Ryan Seacrest). He introduced a lot of people to a lot of bands, and produced a lot of shows in addition to Bandstand, and his hair staying perfect the whole time.
Our guide to the best obituaries should give you a good primer on Clark, whether you're just learning about him, looking to reflect on an iconic figure, or keen to brush up on your pop culture history:
The New York Times' Bruce Weber avoided the "world's oldest teenager" cliché until the third page of his online memorial, though he did point out in his opening that Clark "did as much as anyone or anything to advance the influence of teenagers and rock ’n’ roll on American culture." Even though "what he was most famous for — spinning records and jabbering with teeny-boppers — was on the insubstantial side," Weber wrote, Clark was a force in his industry, and took his work seriously. If you want to sit and ruminate on a lost figure, this is your first and best bet:
He fancied himself a businessman even more than a television personality — “I get enormous pleasure and excitement sitting in on conferences with accountants, tax experts and lawyers,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1961 — and he was especially deft at packaging entertainment products for the small screen.
The Associated Press' Lynn Elber went for the "world's oldest teenager" line in the fourth paragraph of her piece, and does a more straightforward wrap-up of Clark's career and the role he played in pop culture. If you want to drop a lot of names at the bar tonight, this is the piece for you:
Clark bridged the rebellious new music scene and traditional show business, and equally comfortable whether chatting about music with Sam Cooke or bantering with Ed McMahon about TV bloopers. He thrived as the founder of Dick Clark Productions, supplying movies, game and music shows, beauty contests and more to TV. Among his credits: "The $25,000 Pyramid," "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes" and the American Music Awards.
NPR's Neda Ulaby put the "teenager" line right in her opening, and then went for a basically chronological rundown on Clark's life. This is your choice to get a more in-depth biography and to pick up historical tidbits about Clark. It's also where you'll probably be able to hear some old Bandstand clips when the audio goes live at 7 p.m.:
Four years into his time at WFIL, Clark got his big break. A Philadelphia TV host on a local teen dance program called American Bandstand had been accused of sexual impropriety with some of the teenage dancers and arrested for drunken driving. The station faced enormous pressure to cancel its most lucrative program, and the producers needed a new host.
It's not an obituary, but as long as we're reading about Clark, you'll probably enjoy this Life magazine feature from 1958, about a new craze called rock 'n' roll and its most influential cheerleader, Dick Clark:
USA Today's Ann Oldenburg thoughtfully angled her memorial to the younger reader who might not know Clark's significance. "He was, in some ways, the Carson Daly of his day," she wrote. This is the basic primer for those curious to know what all the fuss is about, and why this guy matters:
American Bandstand was important to the music world. Not only did it show worried parents exactly what their kids were interested in, but when Clark changed the name of the show, he also ended its all-white policy and began introducing black artists, a hot-button issue of the time. American Bandstand provided the first national exposure for Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Chubby Checker, among others.