Remembering The Time David Bowie Called Out MTV's Racism

January 11th 2016

Laura Donovan

Following the death of influential 69-year-old musician David Bowie on Sunday, many are sharing an MTV interview he did more than three decades ago when he called out MTV for not playing music videos from Black artists.

Early Monday, ITV News journalist Charlene White tweeted a transcript of Bowie's confrontational conversation with VJ Mark Goodman in the early 1980s. It has since been retweeted and favorited thousands of times:

The interview.

In the interview, Bowie famously asked why there were "practically no Blacks" on MTV, to which Goodman replied:

"We seem to be doing music that fits into what we want to play on MTV. The company is thinking in terms of narrowcasting.”

RELATED: The Subtle Hollywood Racism Nobody Talks About

Bowie pointed out that there were "a lot of Black artists making very good videos" and that he was surprised not to see them on MTV. Goodman said that MTV was trying to consider how someone in certain parts of America might respond to Black music videos.

"We have to try and do what we think not only New York and Los Angeles will appreciate, but also Poughkeepsie or the Midwest," Goodman said.

"Pick some town in the Midwest which would be scared to death by… a string of other black faces, or black music. We have to play music we think an entire country is going to like, and certainly we’re a rock and roll station.”

RELATED: Black Activist Shuts Down Correspondent's Racist Comments

Bowie responded with the question:

“Don’t you think it’s a frightening predicament to be in?”

When Goodman said radio operates in a similar manner, Bowie said MTV shouldn't try to blame someone else.

"Don’t say, ‘Well, it’s not me, it’s them,'" Bowie said. "Is it not possible it should be a conviction of the station and of the radio stations to be fair… to make the media more integrated?"

David Bowie and the Jena Six.

Bowie fought for racial justice throughout his short life. In 2007, he donated $10,000 to a legal defense fund for six Black teens who were charged with attacking a white classmate in Jena, Louisiana. Many referred to the charged teens as the Jena Six, and people all over the country protested on their behalf as a result of the racial tension taking place at their high school in Jena at the time.

At the time, Bowie had this statement:

"There is clearly a separate and unequal judicial process going on in the town of Jena. A donation to the Jena Six Legal Defense Fund is my small gesture indicating my belief that a wrongful charge and sentence should be prevented."


Here are some tweets celebrating Bowie's relationship with the Black community:

Bowie died after battling cancer for 18 months and was surrounded by family and friends in his final moments, BBC reports.