Music legend David Bowie passed away Sunday, and while his status as one of the most enigmatic and influential musicians of all time is set, another important part of his legacy is circulating around social media: the time he ripped and embarrassed MTV for not playing music videos by black artists.
After meeting the legendary black musician Nile Rodgers and hiring him to work on his upcoming album, Bowie was surprised to learn from the guitarist that “white radio” and “white television” wasn’t very welcoming to “black music.” Rodgers pointed to the case of Rick James’ “Superfreak” not being shown on the network because the network “didn’t define him as rock.”
Bowie first brought the issue up in an interview with Penthouse, describing the racism on MTV as “extraordinarily blatant.” However, it was during an on-air interview with VJ Mark Goodman on the network where Bowie made his point more explicit.
Via Inside MTV by R. Serge Denisoff:
In 2013, Mark Goodman spoke to the NY Daily News about the interview, saying he “felt like a pawn” in the interaction. He concluded that Bowie “was just using me to bring this issue into the forefront. I felt like an idiot, and I felt used, and I felt insignificant to David Bowie—which I probably was, anyway.”
Something about making a recording Let’s Dance, his 15th album, while in his mid-30s, jostled Bowie into speaking out more. On top of calling out MTV (which dropped its racial “format” soon after Thriller was released), Bowie also spoke out against racism in South Africa and Australia that year.