‘I Want My MTV’: A Literary Guide to the 1984 VMA Awards

Billboard called 1984 “pop music’s best year ever,” and many agree that it was a magical musical time where not only could we hear music, but we could see it; and MTV was instrumental in making that happen. While there was much to be concerned with on the political front and relations with Iran, crack-cocaine was becoming an epidemic, and there was the scare of AIDS that stirred fear and pandered to our overall ignorance as a nation. Despite these social perils, in 1984 we also saw some firsts that signified promise in a time of overwhelming dystopia. Singer/Actress Vanessa L. Williams became the first African American Miss America and the space shuttle Discovery made its maiden voyage. The year 1984 was also a first for MTV. The network that had played music videos 24 hours a day, year round since 1981 was hosting its first ever VMA awards show.

It was memorable not just because it would be one of the first awards shows were viewers would vote on winners, but also because it was the year Tina Turner (and her legs) made a comeback at age 45, Madonna’s performance of “Like a Virgin” solidified her status as a cultural icon, and Herbie Hancock proved that instrumental tunes with jazz roots can “Rockit” and win over the MTV generation.

This weekend is the perfect time to bone up on your VMA history before Sunday’s show! Here are a selection of bios of winners, performers and hosts to keep you in the know; there’s also a pretty cool video retrospect as well. Check it out:

 

Herbie Hancock: Possibilities, Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock: Possibilities, Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock was the big winner of the 1984 VMAs for his video for the song “Rockit.” Herbie began his career as a member of Miles Davis’ quintet and his music is heavily sampled throughout hip-hop.

Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir, Cyndi Lauper and Jancee Dunn

Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir, Cyndi Lauper and Jancee Dunn

It was being “so unusual” that made Cyndi Lauper an MTV fav! Her first single, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” became somewhat of an anthem for the MTV generation. In the years since, Lauper became known for her activism, particularly he LGBTQ advocacy. Read how she went from leaving home at 17 to becoming a Broadway producer for “Kinky Boots,” as told on her own words to Jancee Dunn.

Unmade Up: Recollections of a Friendship with David Bowie, Edward Bell

Unmade up, Edward Bell

In Unmade Up, Edward Bell traces his remarkable friendship with David Bowie with a specific look at Bowie’s style and vision through his artwork. It contains never-before-released photographs and images that show Bowie’s artistic side in a new and refreshing way. Unmade Up is due for release in October.

David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

The second forthcoming David Bowie bio to be released this fall, David Bowie: A Life is a collection of memories and stories from friends, associates and the people who knew Bowie best and loved him. This book chronicles his life and accomplishments and is due for release on September 12th.

Richard Corman: Madonna NYC 83, Richard Corman

Madonna NYC 83

From the Amazon description: “Madonna NYC 83 celebrates a moment in early 1980s New York that has been increasingly reappraised in recent years for its fecund interactions and overlaps between the worlds of fashion, art and music. As this book makes amply clear, from the start she was determined to define a look for herself, and to carve out a space in the public imagination. After her countless subsequent incarnations over the past three decades, it is extraordinary to revisit these early years. Richard Corman met Madonna by chance in 1983 and created a bountiful collection of images that constitute a multifaceted portrait of the young Madonna and a New York that remains timelessly inspiring and significant.”

 

VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn, & Gavin Edwards

VJ: The unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave

The VJs were critical in shaping the MTV generation through their style and approach to hosting various programs and specials on the network. Almost as famous as the artists they covered, the MTV VJs had a front-row seat to the making of history. Here, VJs from 1981-1985, including the late J.J. Jackson, dish on their experiences in front of the cameras and behind the scenes.

Dancing with Myself, Billy Idol

Dancing with Myself, Billy Idol

There is no better description of Billy Idol’s 2014 memoir than his own:  “I am hopelessly divided between the dark and the good, the rebel and the saint, the sex maniac and the monk, the poet and the priest, the demagogue and the populist. Pen to paper, I’ve put it all down, every bit from the heart. I’m going out on a limb here, so watch my back.”

A View from a Broad, Bette Midler

A View From a Broad, Bette Midler

The ‘Divine Miss M’ was one of the hosts (along with Dan Aykroyd) of the first VMAs. Written in 1980, this memoir was re-released in 2014 with a new introduction, added stories and features. A  thrilling trip through the lives of one of our most out-spoken singer/actress/Broadway starlets.

Ordinary Girl: The Journey, Donna Summer and Marc Eliot

Ordinary Girl: The Journey, Donna Summer and Marc Eliot

Before she died in 2011, Donna Summer chronicled her life from “sex goddess” and disco diva to how she juggled marriage and motherhood as “she worked hard for the money.”

Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir, Pat Benatar

Between a Heart and a Rock Place, Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar was one of the first solo female rockers to appear on MTV. Her retelling of her life is as edgy as her lyrics and as honest as one would expect from this “heartbreaker.”

Somebody to Love: The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury, Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne

Somebody to Love, Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne

Freddy Mercury was one of the first casualties of the AIDS virus known to the MTV generation. Still, he lead an amazing life that was neither silenced or compromised by disease and death. Somebody To Love showcases Freddie’s brilliance as well as his quest for love and fulfillment— personal and professional.

Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones, Quincy Jones

Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones, Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones’ standing as a music legend is unquestionable. In 1984, he was awarded a VMA for his work as producer of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and other lifetime accomplishments. In his autobiography, ‘Q’ a story that is just as comparable and intricate as any song he could ever produce. You won’t be disappointed.

Rod: The Autobiography, Rod Stewart

Rod: The Autobiography, Rod Stwart

According to Amazon, Rod Stewart is “finally ready to take a candid and romping look back at his life both on and off the stage. From his humble British roots to his hell-raising years on tour with his bandmates, not forgetting his great loves (including three marriages and eight children) and decades touring the world, Rod delivers a riveting ride through one of rock’s most remarkable lives.” This 2013 memoir offers more than is expected and delivers.

I, Tina: My Life Story, Tina Turner and MTV News VJ Kurt Loder

I, Tina: My Story, Tina Turner and Kurt Loder

I, Tina is probably the best known of these books because it was turned into an epic biopic starring Angela Bassett as Tina Turner, but the book, itself, is worth noting because of the co-author. Tina worked closely with former 80s MTV News host Kurt Loder to tell a story that is compelling, painful and triumphant. If you saw the movie, you must read the book for it provides the key to Tina’s longevity and how she maintains that ageless physique.

In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran, John Taylor

In the Pleasure Groove, John Taylor

They were the favorite band of another 80s icon: the late Princess Diana. However, Duran Duran was a band made of more than talent and charisma; they are the ultimate survivors, a group of the verge of self-destruction, especially the author, John Taylor, who re-emerged from darkness and were stronger before as men and musicians.

Take It Like a Man: The Autobiography of Boy George, Boy George

Take it Like a Man, Boy George

The 80s in retrospect could not be complete without mention of the gender-bending enigma of Boy George. In this memoir, George candidly speaks of his relationship with fellow Culture Club member Jon Moss— for whom he wrote some of the most memorable tunes, to his addiction to heroin and sobriety. This memoir is as new wave as his music and just as riveting.

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Aisha K. Staggers

Aisha K. Staggers has been writing since middle school. She had her first major publication in her local newspaper’s entertainment section while a sophomore in high school, a publication in another state paper followed. Aisha has been contributing to various paper, magazines and textbooks for over 15 years. In addition to her time as an instructor of social sciences in higher education, Aisha has served as a director of education and policy research centers, and on the staff of legislative commissions. Aisha previously served on the Executive Board of the CT Young Democrats Women’s Caucus and has remained active in politics and public policy. She is an alumni of Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT and Fisk University in Nashville, TN where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees, respectively, and completed the South Carolina Education Policy Fellowship Program in 2008. Currently, Aisha is Senior Editor for BookTrib, a division of the literary public relations firm, Meryl Moss Media. In addition to her own work, Aisha will be writing the liner notes for an upcoming Prince tribute album and contributing a chapter to a 2018 scholarly work on Prince and the Minneapolis Sound.