The passing of Dick Clark was a sad event for many generations of fans who grew up loving rock and roll.
No matter what kind of music you liked, chances are pretty good you watched American Bandstand on the weekends, and Dick Clark always seemed to be the youthful perennial at the center of it all.
When VH1 started having Bandstand marathons, it was always remarkable to see that no matter how much music, clothes, dances, and hairstyles changed, Dick Clark always stayed the same, like watching time lapse photography.
As the L.A. Times reports, it was Clark “who literally introduced rock ‘n roll to much of the nation on American Bandstand. With the exception of Elvis Presley, Clark was considered by many to be the person most responsible for the bonfire spread of rock ‘n roll across the country in the late 50’s.”
As we saw in later decades with the power of MTV, television brought rock ‘n roll to more people at once than any other medium could have at the time. And where a lot of parents were terrified of rock music from the outset, Clark’s friendly, clean-cut image put people at ease, and eventually the music became big business, from which Clark also shrewdly made a fortune.
In the span of a year, we lost two other performers that had tremendous sentimental value for me as a music lover: Gerry Rafferty and Dobie Gray. Rafferty wrote and sang one of the greatest songs of the 70’s, Baker Street, and Gray sang one of the greatest songs ever written, Drift Away.
Drift Away, along with Boston’s More Than a Feeling, is one of the greatest declarations of the power of music, and with both songs, I loved them both the first time I heard them. In 1977, you heard the immortal sax hook of Baker Street everywhere, and the rest of the song is very well crafted and haunting. Baker Street also has a great guitar solo that Slash took some licks from for his solo in Sweet Child ‘O Mine. (The sax part was performed by Raphael Ravenscroft).
In later years, Rafferty became well known for a take off he did on Bob Dylan, Stuck in the Middle With You, which of course was used in the infamous ear scene in Reservoir Dogs. It brought the song back big time, but it’s Baker Street that will always have the special place in my heart. (According to a report in the New York Times, Rafferty made about $125,000 in royalties annually from the song).
Drift Away was written by Mentor Williams, Paul Williams’s brother, but only Dobey Gray really brought this special tune to life. Both songs still take me to happy places in my head and heart in hard times, as do my memories of watching American Bandstand as a kid. It’s unfortunate that Clark, Gray and Rafferty are no longer with us, but what Clark did for rock and roll, and the songs Gray and Rafferty performed, will always be with us.