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Artists That Broke Down The Color Barrier On ‘American Bandstand’

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Photo by David Welker/Getty Images

Photo by David Welker/Getty Images

Since Dick Clark began hosting American Bandstand in 1956, he was the main force in helping to expose hundreds of artists to the mainstream, and he was especially at the forefront of bridging the color gap in music.

He was one of the first who gave artists of any race or color a chance to shine on television, and his influence is perhaps best described by one of the artists who got that chance on American Bandstand, Stevie Wonder.

“Dick Clark bridged a color gap at a time when there should not have been one, giving musical life to black artists that may not have had a chance. He gave music freedom — equal opportunity,” Stevie said in a statement following the news of his death.

So in continuing with celebrating the life and legacy Dick Clark has left on music and pop culture, we’re taking a look at some of the iconic artists that broke down the color gap in music by having their TV debut on American Bandstand!

Artists who debuted on American Bandstand and helped break down color barriers in music:

Stevie Wonder — Still known as “Little” Stevie Wonder, the music great talked to Dick Clark after his performance in 1969 about various topics like deferring school for music, playing the harmonica since he was four, and arranging songs for The Beatles. Click here to watch Stevie Wonder on AB.


Michael Jackson — Fans knew him from the Jackson 5, but Michael broke out on his own for the first time singing Rockin’ Robin on American Bandstand in 1971.


Janet Jackson — A young, emerging Janet Jackson broke out into music with her TV debut on American Bandstand in the mid-’80s. Dick Clark introduces her as the “gorgeous,” “talented” artist coming from the line of the Jackson family, but is a “singular artist on her own” before a performance of “Young Love.”


Chubby Checker — Kids raced home for one reason to watch American Bandstand, and that was to learn the new dance trends of the time. When a new artist by the name of Chubby Checker debuted his new dance craze called The Twist, dancing was changed forever from that moment on.


Aretha Franklin — After news of his death, The Queen of Soul credited Dick Clark for giving her a chance to appear on American Bandstand, telling Anderson Cooper that she hadn’t really made it as an artist until she performed on that stage.

The list of artists who debuted on American Bandstand and helped bring black music to the mainstream goes on and on. Just a few more of the laundry list of iconic artists include James Brown, Little Richard, The Supremes, Gladys Knight, Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, Boyz II Men and so many more.

Dick Clark was certainly ahead of his time with music on American Bandstand, and if wasn’t for his involvement, we might not have had the chance to see and hear some of the biggest artists in music history.

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