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Clark suffered a stroke in 2004 that affected his ability to speak and walk. That year, he missed his annual appearance on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”

He returned the following year and, although his speech at times was difficult to understand, many praised his bravery, including other stroke victims.

“I’m just thankful I’m still able to enjoy this once-a-year treat,” he told The Associated Press by email in December 2008 as another New Year’s Eve approached.

Ryan Seacrest, who subsequently took over main hosting duties on the countdown show from Clark, said in a statement Wednesday that he was “deeply saddened.”

“I idolized him from the start,” Seacrest said. “He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world.”

Record executive Clive Davis called Clark “a true pioneer who revolutionized the way we listened to and consumed music. For me he ranks right up there with the giants of our business.”

Friends on Wednesday recalled a patient, encouraging man. “He was there for every crisis of my life and there were many,” Connie Francis said in statement. “Without Dick Clark there would have been no career because I was ready to abandon it. Dick was the most principled man I ever met in this business and treated everyone the same way, even if you were the little guy.”

Said Pat Boone: “Careers grew because of Dick Clark.”

Clark was honored at the Emmy Awards in 2006, telling the crowd: “I have accomplished my childhood dream, to be in show business. Everybody should be so lucky to have their dreams come true. I’ve been truly blessed.”

He was born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1929. His father, Richard Augustus Clark, was a sales manager who worked in radio.

Clark idolized his athletic older brother, Bradley, who was killed in World War II. In his 1976 autobiography, “Rock, Roll & Remember,” Clark recalled how radio helped ease his loneliness and turned him into a fan of Steve Allen, Arthur Godfrey and other popular hosts.

From Godfrey, he said, he learned that “a radio announcer does not talk to `those of you out there in radio land’; a radio announcer talks to me as an individual.”

Clark began his career in the mailroom of a Utica, N.Y., radio station in 1945. By age 26, he was a broadcasting veteran, with nine years’ experience on radio and TV stations in Syracuse and Utica, N.Y., and Philadelphia. He held a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. While in Philadelphia, Clark befriended McMahon, who later credited Clark for introducing him to his future “Tonight Show” boss, Johnny Carson.

In the 1960s, “American Bandstand” moved from black-and-white to color, from weekday broadcasts to once-a-week Saturday shows, and from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Although its influence started to ebb, it still featured some of the biggest stars of each decade, whether Janis Joplin, the Jackson 5, Talking Heads or Prince. But Clark never did book two of rock’s iconic groups, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Elvis Presley also never performed, although Clark managed an on-air telephone interview while Presley was in the Army.

The show’s status as an American cultural institution was solidified when Clark donated Bandstand’s original podium and backdrop to the Smithsonian Institution.

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