Why It Took MTV So Long To Play Black Music Videos
Music TeleVision (MTV) hit
America’s airwaves with a sonic boom 25 years ago. The pioneering cable
television network also received a deafening tongue-lashing from a super ticked
Rick James, who publicly declared it “blatant racism” when MTV
refused to air his Super Freak video and other videos by Black artists because
they didn’t fit the network’s rock-dominated format.
“A lot of Black asses are going to come together and
explode on MTV,” James said in 1983. “There are no Blacks on MTV’s
program list except for Tina Turner, and she stopped being Black about 10 years
ago. MTV puts on little White punk groups who don’t even have record deals.
Blacks are missing exposure and sales.”
Modeled after Top 40 radio, MTV’s video playlist had a meager
few Black videos in 1981. Most of its early videos came from England where
music videos were already common.
Eddy Grant, Musical Youth and Joan Armatrading were some of
the Black artists from that country whose videos were shown during MTV’s
inception. Tina Turner, Jon Butcher Axis, The Bus Boys and Donna Summer were
some of the other Black artists whose videos were shown because their music fit
James, whose music helped define “punk funk,”
fought for two years to have more Black videos shown on MTV. ABC’s
“Nightline” featured his much publicized crusade. But the outspoken
performer, who died in 2004, became agitated because it seemed as though he was
on the battlefield’s front line alone.
“I’m a crusader without an army,” James said.
“All these Black artists claim they’re behind me, but when it’s time to
make a public statement, you can’t find them … They’re going to let me do all
the rapping and get into trouble and then they’ll reap the benefits.”
(Hello All! First off, I want to apologize for how slow Newt’s replies have been recently. Finals rolled around and kept me busy, but we’re back in business now. You can expect more conversation with our favorite Magizoologist soon. :)
I also wanted to mention that I’ll be going on a Study Abroad this summer, starting about… now. I’ll be in England for a little while, so if anyone is in that neck of the woods and wants to meet up, come yell at me on my main blogand let me know! I’ll be running around London Comic Con with @mrpercivalgraves too, so you can find us there for all manner of shenanigans I’m sure.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Have a great summer!