Can't say I like being either the Happy Birthday or R.I.P. blog one bit, but I'm compelled to go the latter route today. No choice: pop culture mourns the losses of television mainstay Dick Clark and powerhouse drummer Levon Helm. In addition, songwriter and vocalist Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees (note: I have a soft spot for their 1969 album Odessa) is gravely ill.
While American Bandstand host Dick Clark was, first and foremost, a television personality/businessman/promoter, without a doubt, he did much to bring the music of 1950's icons Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers and Bobby Darin to a wider audience than could have ever been imagined.
American Bandstand's mission was to give the teenage record-buying public what they wanted, and in so doing, (promoting such outstanding entertainers as Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles), helped break the color barrier and usher in long overdue changes for America.
Depending on which generation you hail from, any one or all of the aforementioned individuals may hold great meaning (and for horror movie, classic television and genre picture fans, Jonathan Frid, the wry actor who played vampire Barnabas Collins with style in the popular Dark Shadows TV show, who also passed on this week, would be that guy).
For me personally, Levon Helm, the driving force behind The Band and among the world's few singing drummers, was the one who affected my life in a profound way.
I played their Rock Of Ages album until the grooves wore out, saw them essentially blow every other group off the stage at a mid-1970's "Day On The Green" concert in San Francisco and much admired their work as Bob Dylan's powerful backup band on several recordings.
Anyone who saw The Band perform got a rare treat. They played rip-roaring sets of American roots rock as if their very lives were riding on every note.
Radiating joy while powering that juggernaut, Levon Helm played and sang with drive, love of music and originality.
Thanks a million for the music, Levon!