written by C. Shardae Jobson
As the 2016 Golden Globes ended the Sunday night of January 10, in the early morning of January 11, it was confirmed by business manager Bill Zysblat, that the music legend David Bowie had passed away at the age of 69. He had just celebrated his 69th birthday on Friday, January 8 and released his latest (and now last) album Blackstar.
I was devastated when I read the news. I first heard about it on Instagram, just killing time as I had awoken from sleep a little after 5 in the morning. When I noticed I was seeing a lot of pictures Bowie and captions like “RIP” I felt shaken. No. Not Bowie. Immediately, I went to Facebook where I saw tons of posts from Rolling Stone and news briefs further confirming his death. My heart dropped.
Just last month Scott Weiland passed away. On December 31, Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead died. And right at the beginning of the new year, we were sadly alerted that R&B great Natalie Cole had succumbed to heart failure. I felt a deep sadness about Bowie’s death. I soon wept for his music, remembering hearing it as a child, and the uncomfortable fact that with every passing year my childhood is farther and farther away and the icons I grew up with, so many we have lost. I cried for the days when they were all with us and the days that I all knew were big dreams and possibility. The news of Bowie hit me hard. Again, I said to myself, “Not Bowie.”
I will be listening to his discography in the days to come. I always loved and appreciated his presence and know his music is with us. I did love seeing the tributes to him with many fans referring to his role in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth and saying that he had returned to the stars. Online, fans have also left sweet implications that Bowie has like the weirdest, most talented kid in school whose work and bravery got them through, hence his groundbreaking fifth album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (listen to the song “Starman”). For this album, he had portrayed an androgynous rock star from another planet. The imagery from this era, as well as his Aladdin Sane time frame, remained incredibly influential into the 1980s and beyond. His first album debuted in 1967.
His wife Iman hasn’t released an official statement, but her Instagram page is full of wistful quotes and lots of Bowie pics because his birthday was just last Friday. But little did we know that the icon was battling cancer for the last 18 months. His surviving family members include his daughter with Iman and another daughter and son from both his and Iman’s previous relationships. Iman and Bowie were a favorite of the red carpet and were one of a few celeb couples who were the real thing.
Bowie gave us so many classic tunes, memorable film roles (Labyrinth anyone?) artwork (his Heroes album cover? The definition of EPIC.) and fashion moments that confidently embraced gender fluidity. For the 1985 high school film The Breakfast Club, John Hughes introduced his picture with a quote from Bowie in defense of the youth.
As far as interviews and public persona go, one of his most thrilling was when in 1983, during an interview with MTV VJ Mark Goodman, Bowie eloquently yet in a hard-hitting manner asked why the channel didn’t play a lot of Black artists. Goodman seemed taken off guard and gave repeatedly sheepish responses that the channel tried to stay to a more “rock” schedule and that Middle America and essentially White viewers “would be scared to death of Prince, or a string of other Black artists.” Damn, Goodman. What the hell was so scary about a (Black) artist like Marvin Gaye or Donna Summer? “Rock music” derived from Rock n Roll, a genre created by Black artists. Goodman attempted to justify MTV’s embarrassing lapse of racism and his statement was remarkable in the sense of how mortifyingly discriminatory and sheltered it was. I mean, sheesh. For someone who’s so pro-rock, Tina Turner, a Black woman, was on the second cover ever of rock-based magazine Rolling Stone back in late 1960s. For an MTV special nearly two decades later, celebrating the channel’s 20th anniversary, Goodman admitted that he felt caught in the middle of answering the question truthfully while still making sure to not throw his place of employment under the bus. Fair enough. But damn, his comments were harsh and unfair.
Around that time, Michael Jackson was the only Black artist getting any kind of airplay on MTV because of the massive, couldn’t be denied, impact of Thriller. But MTV still had work to do and Bowie called them out on their bullshit. In later years, MTV was forced to recognize the impact of Black artists such as Whitney Houston, Prince and Janet Jackson, and eventually the development and airing of the show Yo! MTV Raps would come to both save the channel from cable and certify it’s effect on American popular culture. MTV owes a lot of its success to Black artists. And in 1983, Bowie has on their side for their music to be heard.
MTV News has thankfully uploaded the full clip from to both their Twitter and YouTube accounts. And you watch the exchange between Bowie and Goodman below.
One time for the Goblin King. David Robert Jones, you will be so missed. (And watch the video for my personal favorite song of his below the MTV clip, “Modern Love”).