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Today is September 16, 2021

Grammy Museum

Celebrating 40 years of MTV

By Steven Ward

Grammy Museum

“Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.”

Those were the first words uttered on a brand new cable television channel that debuted on Aug 1, 1981.

Then the channel broadcast a video for the British pop song, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.

The channel was MTV, the brainchild of a Mississippian.

Now, nearly 40 years later, Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland, is marking this pivotal moment in music history with a special exhibit, “MTV Turns Forty: I Still Want My MTV.” The exhibit opened in mid-May and will run through summer 2022. “MTV Turns Forty” explores the history of the iconic music brand — from the role of native Mississippian, Bob Pittman, in the concept and execution of an idea that revolutionized the music industry, to why, nearly four decades later, people across the world still scream, “I want my MTV.” “MTV Turns Forty” is sponsored in part by the Maddox Foundation. Exhibit partners include MTV and Hard Rock International. Additional support is provided by corporate sponsors DittyTV, Entergy and Millsaps College in Mississippi.

“I’m pleased and proud that my home state of Mississippi is hosting an exhibition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of MTV,” said Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc., who led the team that created and launched MTV in 1981. “Mississippi and MTV are two of the great formative influences in my life, and I’m delighted that they’re coming together for this anniversary celebration.”

“We are so thrilled to be marking this special moment in music history with an exhibit at our Museum,” said Emily Havens, executive director for Grammy Museum Mississippi, in a news release. “What many may not know is MTV has deep roots here in Mississippi as one of its creators, Bob Pittman, is a native of Jackson. In addition, this exhibit wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for our late dear friend, and first Chair of the Grammy Museum Mississippi Board, Lucy Janoush. Prior to her passing in 2017, Lucy was sketching out her idea for an exhibit that would celebrate 40 years of MTV.”

For the exhibit, Grammy Museum Mississippi captured interviews with and artifacts from the four remaining original MTV VJs: Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter (a graduate of Millsaps College), and Martha Quinn. Original MTV VJ, J.J. Jackson, passed away in 2004.


Some of the artifacts provided on loan from Hard Rock include:

• The silky dress briefly worn by Madonna in her music video for “Vogue”

• The leather suit worn by Michael Jackson in the music video for “Dirty Diana,” plus contracts from other shoots, including the making of the “Thriller” music video

• Dire Straits’ 1986 MTV VMA Award for Video of the Year for “Money for Nothing”


Additionally, “MTV Turns Forty” features artifacts such as:

Some of the artifacts provided on loan from Hard Rock include:

• Memorabilia from Aerosmith and Run-DMC

• Interview footage, notes, sketches and more about the idea for MTV from Bob Pittman and John Sykes

• Spotlights on the many pivotal moments in MTV’s history, from Nirvana and “MTV Unplugged”



“MTV Turns 40: I Still want My MTV”


Wednesday through Saturday — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday — 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.


Adults - $14

College students and youth - $8

Seniors - $12

Members and children under 5 - free

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