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Rick James, MTV & Jim Crow Programming

Rick James and Grace JonesStreet Songs came out 1981. After winning the American Music Award for Best Album, I took some pictures backstage with Grace Jones. Grace and I were clowning with the photographers. A newsman asked Grace why she wasn’t on MTV. She replied, “Cuz MTV has no taste.” She said that’s why she and I weren’t on it. I said something similar, but using slightly stronger language…

The MTV thing started to catch fire. It seems whatever the [expletive] I said that day with Grace moved a lot of people. Everyone wanted to talk to me about MTV, the racist TV station. At the time I came out and called MTV racist, there were one hundred and fifty videos on it. Out of those openly three were Black Musical Youth, Eddie Grant and someone else I can’t recall- that was it. Two out of three were Jamaican groups. MTV was supposed to play Top Forty groups. That means anybody in the Billboard Top Forty should be on MTV. Their policy was to play Urban Contemporary, Top Forty stuff. This being true, where was Teddy Pendergrass, Rick James, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and a few other Blacks that were crossing over big time? They were not being played.

In the Fifties that was called “Jim Crow programming.” Radio DJ’s at White stations were not allowed to play Blacks. It was considered “Devil Music.” That’s why Elvis, Buddy Holly, Pat Boone and other White singers became so successful covering Black tunes- and getting hit records out of them. Imagine Pat Boone getting a hit off Little Richard’s “Lucille.” It was [expletive] up. Then Alan Freed, a White DJ, opened the doors for Black artists. MTV was the same [expletive] 50 years later.

I had spent thousands of dollars making some great videos only to have MTV say “No way.” MTV even refused to play the classic video “Standing on the Top,” which featured me with all the Temptations- the only videos they are all in. Linda Ronstadt could sing “Ooh Baby Baby” but when it came to Smokey Robinson, MTV said “No Go.” I had had enough and was going to bring MTV into the light, no matter what the cost- and believe me, it cost me plenty.

Bob Pittman, the Program Director for MTV, was a well-known racist in telecommunications. He was brought into jobs to higher and fire Blacks. He programmed MTV, which was owned by Gulf and American Express, big [expletive] companies. They started MTV as a big [expletive] s tax write-off, a tax shelter with just one law: KEEP BLACKS OFF. I did an informal survey to find out what was going on. I even talked to Jay Johnson, one of the DJs on MTV, a British Black…

Bob Pittman came out in Rolling Stone magazine and said certain Blacks did not make the kind of music he thought appropriate for his station. If that wasn’t a racist remark nothing was. Sammy Davis Jr. And Hall & Oates even appeared on TV and said I was right. I was told that when Bob Pittman was told about my feud with Prince he immediately put Prince into rotation with this record called “Little Red Corvette.” The record had died on the charts- I mean died. As soon as MTV started playing the video, the record was re-released and became a smash. That’s the power of MTV. I could have sold thirty or forty million more albums had MTV played my videos.

My efforts did not go in vein. Little by little MTV added more blacks to their play list. Now they even have an alternative MTV, VH-1, just for Blacks. The first video of mine they ever played was a record that wasn’t even mine. It was a tune I composed for Eddie Murphy called “Party All the Time.” Eddie and I did a video together for it. It was a number one record and the first time MTV even put Rick James on screen.” From, “The Memoirs of Rick James” By: Rick James

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The White Washing Of Black Culture

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