I’m not sure how many more times I can do this. In no way am I certain I’ll again have the strength to write about losing another person who impacted my life and the lives of countless others. A heavy heart turns my fingers to anvils. I lay them against my laptop keys fully intending to turn my feelings into paragraphs, but for several minutes – sometimes hours – I can’t move them. My overflow of emotions quickly amounts to water weight.
The second I learned entertainment icon Dick Clark had passed away my mind was bombarded with memories. I could see them vividly as though someone turned on a slide projector and began showing the images on the wall in front of me. My very next inclination was to write something about him, to pay homage to a man who was likely the reason some people bought their televisions. A man who made it tradition to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Time Square, whether you were there partying in person or watching the last minutes of the year tick away at home, in a bar, or at a club.
These feelings were long from being documented though. My arms became cement blocks, or more like the concrete dividers seen on the highway. I couldn’t lift a finger.
Nothing could stop my head from filling with parallel racing memories from various years and eras. First they were going 75 on both sides of my conscience before soon crossing the median and crashing into one another. I saw my grandmother’s living room where I enjoyed many episodes of American Bandstand, the music show Clark created and hosted. I was a very young child then, along with my slightly older cousin we’d be glued to the TV. My grandmother, usually in the kitchen making breakfast, would yell for us to turn the volume down.
At the exact same time I pictured my grandmother as she is today, sitting quietly as others take care of her. Now she is unable to cook for herself. Children rarely populate her living room, and when they do there are no music shows for them to dance and sing along to. These memories veered off course and hit head on. Instantly, I was a wreck.
I felt similar chronological collisions when I’d learned Michael Jackson died; and the same with actor Leslie Nielson and singers Nate Dogg and Whitney Houston, too.
Yet hearing about Dick Clark brought a different pain entirely. It was pain I never imagined I’d ever feel. The loss of Clark triggered thoughts of Soul Train creator Don Cornelius, the man who was considered Clark’s urban rival. Don passed while I was preparing a star-studded tribute article to honor his pioneering accomplishments. I also thought of power vocalist Vesta Williams, who passed not too long after I’d conducted a feature interview with her. Hip-hop legend Heavy D…died not even a week after I wrote respectfully of a memory of him I held in high regard. While I’m not cursed, I understand that those moments were heavily coincidental; and the sadness associated with the death of someone you admired, respected or loved is undoubtedly enchanting.
For a spell I sat in front of my computer hoping to muster enough strength to press my fingertips downward. While idle I began to reflect on the lives of Jackson, Houston, Nielsen, Nate Dogg, Vetsa, Heavy D, Cornelius and Clark. I wasn’t recounting who they were, but more so what.
Dick Clark, like the others aforementioned, was a symbol; he was one associated with an image not even an HD television and Blu-Ray can create. His symbol uploads an image existent only in the recesses of yourself taking you places not humanly possible to ever physically visit again. What is that place for you? What is the image?
When I hear the name “Dick Clark” I’m whisked away to a room located in the back of mind. Inside there is a slide projector set up, it displays stills that move me. I can seemingly almost touch them, ones the news of Clark’s death makes emotionally touching. For me that image is dancing in my grandmother’s living room with my cousin in front of grandma’s huge tube TV. It’s knowing we’ll never dance there as children again, but when we did Dick Clark was there, too.
And now he’s gone.
My fingers become anvils because the words needed lay heavy on my heart. It pains me to keep lifting this weight.
RIP Richard Wagstaff “Dick” Clark (1929 – 2012).
–Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker, a senior contributor for SoulTrain.com, is an acclaimed entertainment and news journalist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. He loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker. Also visit ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.