When you read about the color barrier at MTV, then you’ll always hear about how Billie Jean by Michael Jackson was the music video to break it. That is usually accepted fact, but some people argue that this music video was actually the one to do it. Others dispute that by saying it didn’t really break the barrier so much as it was a case of MTV thinking that it wouldn’t matter if they were black seeing as they were children. Personally I lean towards that theory since even Billie Jean didn’t really break the barrier. It just set events in motion that would open a crack in the barrier which other black artists would seep through at greater and greater rates till MTV got rid of it altogether.
According to Wikipedia, Musical Youth were the first black artists to appear in a studio segment on MTV. They were hardly the first black artists to be played on MTV though. The “barrier” was more of a general bias that was applied to the day to day decisions about what to play on the station. Certainly legacy artists who they couldn’t ignore and already had a large fan base were snuck in from time to time. However, there is a big difference between that, and getting brought in for an interview on the station. You can read an article here where Designer Magazine interviewed members Dennis Seaton and Michael Grant.
The video was directed by Don Letts, and was shot partially on the southern banks of the River Thames in London, by Lambeth Bridge. It should come as no surprise that Don Letts also directed a bunch of music videos for The Clash, did at least one for Bob Marley & The Wailers, and numerous ones for Musical Youth.
This is pretty cool, and a first for me. Musical Youth themselves chimed in on our Facebook page to give me some additional information. They were told that they were the first to get on a regular playlist on MTV. Based on what I have read in the book I Want My MTV, MTV would throw in a black artist here and there, but getting into regular rotation is another matter altogether.
Thank you, Musical Youth!