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Old clip of David Bowie calling out MTV for not playing Black artists shows he was 'a real one'

David Bowie asked MTV host Mark Goodman in 1983 about the cable channel refusing to air videos of Black artists during the day.

Old clip of David Bowie calling out MTV for not playing Black artists shows he was 'a real one'
Image source: YouTube screenshot/MTV News

Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 30, 2021. It has since been updated.


Music icon David Bowie called out MTV for not featuring Black artists during prime hours in the 1980s and the old clip is doing the rounds on the internet, reminding us how little has changed since. Bowie was always ahead of his time but this particular video highlighted how his stance wasn't dictated by society's moral compass but rather his own. Racial bias was strong in the music industry in the 1980s and Bowie, a legendary musician, calling out MTV was a pretty big deal, reported Comicsands. The old clips resurfaced in the wake of discussions surrounding critical race theory, a deep study of racism and its continued systemic effects in America. Critical race theory is now being used as a bogeyman to scare conservatives, especially when you consider many parents protesting CRT at school board meetings aren't even aware that CRT isn't taught in those schools. 

NEW YORK - JUNE 05: Musician David Bowie speaks onstage while accepting the Webby Lifetime Achievement award at the 11th Annual Webby Awards at Chipriani Wall Street on June 5, 2007, in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

Bowie's old clip is making rounds on the internet, with many expressing great respect for the late musician. MTV was accused of not playing music videos from Black artists except late at night. This was despite the massive popularity of Black artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince, and Run-DMC among others. Bowie brought it up during an interview with the cable channel and certainly didn't let it pass without seeking a proper explanation for the same. “I’m just floored by the fact that there are so few Black artists featured [on MTV]. Why is that?” Bowie asked MTV host Mark Goodman in 1983. Goodman tries to salvage the 'situation' by claiming that the channel was moving in that direction. "We want to play artists that seem to be doing music that fits into what we want to play for MTV. The company's thinking in terms of narrowcasting," he said.


Bowie said he had seen really good music videos made by Black artists on a Black station (believed to be BET) and wondered why they never featured on MTV. Goodman reveals that geography plays a role in deciding the programming and thus sugar-coating racism. “We have to try and do what we think not only New York and Los Angeles will appreciate, but also Poughkeepsie or the Midwest, pick some town in the Midwest that would be scared to death by Prince, which we’re playing, or a string of other black faces. We have to play the type of music the entire country would like.”


Goodman went on to argue that teenagers of 1983 wouldn’t appreciate artists like the Isley Brothers. Bowie flipped it on Goodman and laid bare what he was covering up with wordplay. “I’ll tell you what, maybe, the Isley Brothers or Marvin Gaye means to a black 17-year-old,” said Bowie. “And surely he’s part of America as well." It brings to mind the protests that broke out across America after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by cops. Isn't George Floyd a part of America? Rapper Ice-T shared the video and called Bowie a 'real one.'



It just so happened that it was also the year Michael Jackson released videos for “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” turning him into one of the most famous faces of music in the whole world. The video was appreciated again after former NBA player and social media commentator Rex Chapman posted the video. Chapman posted it in the context of an interview Chuck Todd conducted with New York Times Magazine staff writer, Nicole Hannah-Jones. As they discussed race education in America, Hannah-Jones corrected Todd for referring to white parents as 'parents,' while specifying 'parents of color' for the rest. Todd admitted his mistake but it highlighted how media still plays its part in centering the world around white people.

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