David Bowie Boldly Criticized MTV For Its Lack Of Black Artists In 1980s

Following the news of David Bowie's unexpected passing, the internet has transformed into a virtual time capsule and memorial of the artist's incredible, infinite, and irrevocable impact on the world. But in addition to remembering the voices of his iconic characters — Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Thin White Duke — we can also remember his voice as a bold critic of mainstream ideas.
The above video is a clip from an interview between Bowie and MTV's Mark Goodman in 1983. While on tour promoting "Let's Dance," Bowie brought up the lack of Black artists on the network. "It occurred to me, having watched MTV over the last few months, that’s it’s a solid enterprise, really," Bowie said. "It’s got a lot going for it. I’m just floored by the fact that there are so few Black artists featured on it. Why is that?" Goodman responded with a very unsatisfactory answer, saying the network primarily played musicians "that seem to be doing music that fits into what we want to play for MTV." "There seem to be a lot of Black artists making very good videos that I’m surprised aren’t used on MTV," Bowie replied. Bowie's criticism seemed to fall on deaf ears when Goodman responded that Prince "terrifies" some small-town audiences. "Is it not possible that it should be a conviction of the station, and of other radio stations, to be fair?" Bowie asked. "It does seem to be rampant through American media. Should it not be a challenge to try to make the media far more integrated in especially, if anything, musical terms?" Goodman delivered a long, roundabout response, which essentially proved Bowie's point. There was absolutely a lack of Black artists being represented on MTV. It was courageous, to say the least, for an artist to call out the preeminent music network for its lack of diversity. "Interesting," Bowie said, politely ending the conversation that MTV was clearly unable to have at the time. "Okay. Thank you very much, I understand your point of view." The boldness with which Bowie expressed his ingenious opinions throughout his 50-year career is something we will never forget.

Thank you, Bowie
. We understand your visionary point of view. And already miss it greatly.

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