David Bowie Calls Out MTV on Racial Bias in ’80s Interview
David Bowie is a rock icon and will forever be remembered as the pioneer of music. But he was also incredibly wise. In the late 90s, he predicted how the internet would change the world. But 17 years earlier, at the height of his big new wave comeback, he did an interview with MTV News. There he called the apparent racist bias of the emerging network right in the face. Clips of the interview have been around for years, but the whole thing has surfaced again recently (via Boing Boing). You can see here:
It's uncomfortable to see MTV host Mark Goodman having to do this mental gymnastics. All to explain why the new hip music TV channel played almost no black artists in the air for the first year and a half. But you can see in David Bowie's smiling face that he knows that all these explanations are only pure B.S. To be fair to V.J. Mark Goodman, those programming decisions were probably way above his salary grade. But he still had to explain some pretty obvious racial prejudice from MTV. And couldn't give any good reasons.
David Bowie in an interview with MTV in early 1983.
Ironically, within months of that interview, MTV would reverse its policy of only playing rock by mostly white male performers. And Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Tina Turner and Prince in particular would take the music video channel to new heights in popularity. It's hard to imagine MTV's heyday in the 80s without thinking about videos from Thriller and Purple Rain. Former President of CBS Records, Walter Yetnikoff, said years later that he threatened to get his rock artist's videos off MTV if Billie Jean didn't rotate. MTV gave in and the rest is history. We'd like to believe that Bowie calling her out also played a role in her reversal.
David Bowie calls out MTV's Racial Bias interview in the 80s and first appeared on Nerdist.
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