There was a reason Dick Clark titled his 1976 memoir "Rock, Roll & Remember." But then, you'd expect him to remember his pop music trivia; after all, the man's career is inextricably intertwined with the history of rock 'n' roll. The cliches have stuck to him for years.
He was known as "America's oldest living teenager," the guy who made rock music safe for Middle America and earned a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along the way.
"Dick Clark was significant in transforming the record business into an international industry," reads the Hall of Fame's citation. "His weekly televised record hops — which predated MTV by 25 years — played an integral role in establishing rock and roll, keeping it alive and shaping its future."
But rock music was only the half of it. "He is the marriage of television and rock 'n' roll," said comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, who's written both for Clark the host (at the Miss U.S.A. pageant) and Clark the producer (at the Emmy Awards). "Those two things started at more or less the same time, and up to the point when MTV started, he was the most visible link between them, and the most powerful one."
If Clark had a vision he's proud of, it was clearly the financial foresight that led him to create a music business empire by the age of 30 that made him a millionaire, and then to start over, rebuild and diversify when a television network and a congressional subcommittee forced him to give up his initial holdings. "I'm basically a businessman," he told The Times. "I'm not in it for the glory."
Privately, some colleagues said he clearly was in it for money and the glory. "Why do you think he did 'The $25,000 Pyramid' [initially 'The $10,000 Pyramid' and then 'The $20,000 Pyramid'] for 15 years when he didn't even own the show?" asked one. "Dick has always needed to see his face out front."
Even Clark's detractors concede that the man knew how to make money. "I think a lot of us have very conflicted feelings about Dick, because he is so middle-of-the-road, and so omnipresent in this business," said a television producer. "But he is a great businessman."
He started Dick Clark Productions in 1957 and sold it in 2007 for $175 million.
To many, Dick Clark was rock 'n' roll; to others, he was a businessman so shrewd that pop music seemed little more than the means to his end.
It was a split personality that Clark relished. He once recalled a couple of days in which he addressed the Massachusetts Legislature, taped 15 episodes of a game show, oversaw an awards show production meeting, met with bankers to raise several million dollars to finance his upcoming cable and wireless ventures in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, celebrated the first anniversary of one of his restaurants, and did "a million" radio and television interviews about his various projects.
"It's a fascinating life," he said with a shrug. "And it's a reflection, probably, of my odd nature. I'm a case study for a Type A personality. I have a short attention span, I love activity, I'm into all sorts of strange and wonderful things."
In 2004, Clark suffered a stroke and had been coping with the effects until his death of a massive heart attack at 82. He had remained determined to appear on his New Year's Eve show, now hosted by Ryan Seacrest, who often cites Clark as the model for his own career.
Clark has called the show a labor of love and "not really a job." His final appearance came on New Year's Eve 2012, the 40th anniversary of the show.