The Great Rock n Roll singer David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, The Thin-White Duke, Halloween Jack, the man of many personas passed away losing his battle to cancer Sunday night at the age of 69. Bowie’s impact on music and pop culture will remain forever. The man was an innovator, creatively ahead of his time and transcended music genres for over four decades. Bowie the Icon was a lover of good music period. He always gave props to early Rock n Roll pioneers like Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Little Richard as his main influences growing up. So it was no surprise in the early 1980’s during MTV’s early days, he voiced his distaste for them not playing enough black artists on their network.
During a press junket while being interviewed by MTV VJ Mark Goodman, he reversed roles and bluntly asked Goodman what was the reason behind the lack of black faces on their channel:
“It occurred to me having watched MTV over the last few months that it’s a solid enterprise,” Bowie said of the then-two-year-old network, which had a number of his music videos in heavy rotation. Dressed in a natty suit and absentmindedly picking at lint on his socks, though, Bowie clearly had more than faint praise on his mind. “It’s got a lot going for it. I’m just floored by the fact that there’s so few black artists featured on it. Why is that?”
“We have to try and do what we think not only New York and Los Angeles will appreciate, but also Poughkeepsie or the Midwest. Pick some town in the Midwest which would be scared to death by… a string of other black faces, or black music,” said Goodman. “We have to play music we think an entire country is going to like, and certainly we’re a rock and roll station.”
“Don’t you think it’s a frightening predicament to be in?”
“Yeah, but no less so here than in radio,” replied Goodman, which led to a swift response from the rock legend. “Don’t say, ‘Well, it’s not me, it’s them.’ 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?”
By this time, the Rock singer had already worked closely with music greats Luther Vandross and Nile Rodgers, as well as consistently worked with a room full of the most talented black session players in music. So you could easily see Bowie’s admiration and disbelief that there wasn’t enough quality black music out there worth being on television, besides Michael Jackson, Prince and Donna Summers. Even music label CBS had to threaten to take all their artists off the network to get Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” in the rotation.
Bowie’s support of black musicians didn’t stop there. In 1993 during an interview with Bryant Gumbel, the two discussed creativity in current music at the time:
Gumbel: I’ll never forget when last you were here you were saying that, the only people in the music business now–in your opinion–who were being truly creative were the rappers.
Bowie: Yes, I believe that’s so.
Gumbel: Do you think most others have sold out to commercialism?
Bowie: I don’t think it’s that so much. I think that the white generation have come of age, in fact, they’re part of the administration now. They’re people that brought rock ‘n’ roll to us in its white form. I think that the quality and the significance of the social message has moved very much, fundamentally, to the black and hispanic market now, and that’s where the new force of music is coming from. White music is as fragmented as society itself, and it seems to be reflecting that kind of chaos and fragmentation, whereas with black music, there’s a very strong social point to make. There’s a means of discovery and a purpose.
Bowie’s fingerprints are all over many of rap’s biggest hits including Puff Daddy’s “Been Around the World, Jay Z’s “Takeover,” J. Dilla’s “Take Notice,”Ice Cube’s “Alive on Arrival,” and maybe the most recognizable of all, Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.” Most recently the man from Mars took inspiration from Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly, his final album, Blackstar, is looked at by many as not only a parting gift to his fans as the singer knew he only had a short time to live but was inspired by one of Hip-Hop’s biggest rappers of present day. So you can say in a way things came full circle with Bowie’s love affair for black music.
In a recent interview Bowie’s frequent producer Tony Visconti stated:
“We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar. We wound up with nothing like that, but we loved the fact Kendrick was so open-minded and he didn’t do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. The goal, in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll.”
“He always did what he wanted to do,” Visconti went on. “And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.”
“I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it.
“He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”
Bowie is survived by his wife, supermodel Iman, his son Duncan Jones and Daughter Alexandria Zahra Jones.
— Iman Abdulmajid (@The_Real_IMAN) January 10, 2016
David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 11, 2016
Hoping 2 meet u after we heard the news. At Brock’s house watchin your Doc’s & interviews. But no lens could ever capture your point of view
— Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) January 11, 2016
What a honor, what a soul. David Bowie, Spirit of Gold. RIP.
— Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) January 11, 2016
One of the reasons why I always had The courage to change my names in reinvent myself was… https://t.co/8DLlICDEWw
— Sean Diddy Combs (@iamdiddy) January 11, 2016
David Bowie was a true innovator, a true creative. May he rest in peace 🖖🏾 #RIPDavidBowie
— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) January 11, 2016
David Bowie we will remember your brilliance. Heartfelt condolences to family, friends & fans around the world pic.twitter.com/hhLocL4hDS
— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) January 11, 2016
David Has Gone To Mars. Earth Thanks You https://t.co/r37aKrZQCH
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) January 11, 2016