30 Years Ago: Neil Young Honored by MTV for a Banned Video
In a delicious twist, Neil Young won Video of the Year Award on Sept. 6, 1989, for "This Note's for You" at the MTV Video Music Awards even though the clip had been briefly banned by the same network.
Young's song took aim at corporate sponsorship of rock n' roll -- a hot-button issue in the music industry at the time -- and the clip included a parody of Michael Jackson. Specifically, Young sang over a scene in which a Jackson lookalike’s hair caught fire – mimicking a then-recent mishap on the set of a Pepsi commercial – with the flames put out by a Whitney Houston doppelganger brandishing a can of soda. Michael Jackson was said to be considering legal action against Neil Young, and MTV initially pulled the video from its broadcast rotation.
Young didn't take the ban lying down. “What does the M in MTV stand for – music or money?” he said in an open letter to the network, labeling those who ran MTV as “spineless jerks.” Ultimately, MTV backed down – but only after an extended interview with Kurt Loder on Aug. 21, 1988 in which both sides cleared the air.
Watch Neil Young's 'This Note's for You' Video
A little more than a year later, Young walked across the stage to accept an award for "This Note’s for You" at the annual MTV Video Music Awards.
The controversy, however, wasn't over. Seems the sound was cut midway through Young's acceptance speech.