In The 80s David Bowie Was The One Asking MTV Why There Were No Black Artists On The Channel

He wasn't just about his own music, but everyone's.

In the 1980s, MTV was slowly beginning to play black artists' music videos.


However, as David Bowie points out in this 1983 interview with MTV and Mark Goodman, there were very few and he was "floored" by this fact.

Not many artists can flip an interview like this, and it seems as though Goodman was caught off guard .

Goodman responded by saying, "We're trying to move in that direction," but with the caveat that the music had to fit the MTV brand as well. More specifically, Goodman said that they are "narrowcasting."

Bowie, hardly surprised, said that is "evident," because most of those videos didn't even come on until 2:30 in the morning. He does acknowledge it has been changing over the past few weeks, but it still has not become the new standard.

These artists simply weren't featured "predominantly" during the day, in more prime time slots.

Bowie goes on to say that he sees a lot of good videos on black music television, to which Goodman retorts that MTV has to appeal to demographics across the entire country, not just "New York or Los Angeles."

Goodman actually then says that the midwest "would be scared to death by Prince... or a string of black faces."

At that point, Bowie couldn't even hold back at how ridiculous that statement sounded, and let out a ticked off laugh.

Bowie found that statement "interesting," to say the least.

It's hard to believe that at one time these statements could be thrown around so freely by a network, even though MTV, at that time, was supposed to be a breakthrough for a new generation.

In fact, in the 80s, it seemed as though they were clearly scared to lose ratings instead of advocating for good music and artists, no matter the race.

Goodman, begins to tread back a bit and advocates for black artists he liked such as The Isley Brothers because "they mean something to him." He's not sure though what it means to a 17-year-old.

He then goes on to say, "if you talk on the phone to these guys—" but Bowie promptly cuts him off, observing that artists like The Isley Brothers or Marvin Gaye mean a lot to a "black 17-year-old, who is clearly part of America."

Bowie then says, "Do you not find that it is a frightening predicament to be in? 

Goodman says it's more of a problem with radio, not-so-much with MTV.

Bowie doesn't let him quite get away with that, responding, "Don't say well 'It's not me, it's them'...Is it not possible that it should be a conviction of the station and other (radio) stations to be fair? It seems to be rampant throughout American media. Should it not be a challenge to make media far more integrated, especially of anything in musical terms?"

Goodman agrees, but seems to miss Bowie's point, only saying that white artists are now playing similar types of music that black artists are playing and that will help blur the race lines, since white kids are beginning to understand it.

Bowie simply smiles out of clear frustration with Goodman's lack of understanding.

Perhaps the worst part of the interview comes at the end, when Goodman tries to bring up a kid who wrote an angry letter about black music on the station.

Bowie states, "That's his problem."

Goodman sums up his thinking by going on about how people who might listen to black music now won't be liked at all by people who don't like it. He then points and acts out how a kid might think, saying, "You're into that, I don't like you." 

The camera zooms in and Bowie simply hits him with this expression.

If that one face right there doesn't sum up, "You've got to be f***ing kidding me," we don't know what does.

The conversation clearly isn't going anywhere and there isn't much to make of this ignorant statement. He politely responds, "Interesting. OK. Thank you very much." 

Goodman tries to belittle him and says, "Does that make sense. Valid point?"

Bowie just responds back as best he can by saying, "I understand your point of view," and laughs off this last obnoxious statement.

Thank you David Bowie.

We will not only remember you for your music, but for your intelligence and fair thinking.

You can watch the full interview below.


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.