In 1983, David Bowie challenged an MTV host to explain why they neglect black artists

Following the legendary rock and roll icon David Bowie‘s death, a 1983 MTV interview in which the musician and actor points out MTV’s lack of music videos by black artists is making its rounds.

A tweeted transcript snippet of the video interview with MTV veejay Mark Goodman has gone viral. In it, Bowie asks a very pointed question.

From the transcript:

“[MTV] is a solid enterprise and it’s got a lot going for it. I’m just floored there’s so few black artists featured on it, why is that?”

Goodman attempted to place blame on the tastes of middle Americans, with very specific tastes whose ignorance must be catered to, citing small town America’s fear of “black faces” and “black music” and Bowie did not accept that. He said it should be the prerogative of MTV and the radio stations to make the media fair and unsegregated.

Considering the future of MTV, which would spend most of the 90’s and early 2000’s dominated by rap, hip-hop, and R&B before it’s decline into a reality TV channel, this inauspicious and racist mindset of early 80’s MTV seems very far removed.

Bowie was not the first or only one to express concern with MTV’s policies. Many famous and successful black artists of the time, some of the biggest commercial and artistic powerhouses in the world, were not allowed to have their videos air on MTV. Rick James claimed the channel was racist after they turned down his 1982 video for “Super Freak.” Despite having sold over 10 million records in just a four year period, Rick James was still barred from MTV.

“It’s like taking black people back 400 years.”

Rick James reportedly said in a 1983 interview with Rolling Stone, in which he listed a number of other successful black artists who had been turned down by MTV. These included hugely popular musicians like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.

Bowie spoke out against racism and discrimination. He drew inspiration from black artists, but did not take blindly, as many modern pop stars are often accused of. He helped bring more attention and acclaim to artists such as Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross. The soul singer was even the opener for his 1974 world tour.

Watch the clip below:

Featured image via screen grab

Isadora Teich

Isadora Teich is a freelance writer and digital nomad who has worked in web marketing, digital branding, entertainment, and news. When not writing or traveling she is probably doing yoga, learning Spanish, or experimenting in the kitchen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *