Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.
This issue we will cover "Rockit" by Herbie Hancock. This was one of the earliest music videos I remember making an impression on me. This single, released in 1983, was a bit of a departure for Hancock who is a well-regarded jazz pianist. It originally stood out to me because it was so different, had a catchy synthesizer melody and heavily featured deejay scratching. I was just starting to get into rap music and breakdancing and this song was perfect for breakdancing. They even sampled the line "Rock it, don't stop it" from "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force which was another favorite dance song of mine at the time. "Rockit" was a great song in its own right, but it was the music video which took it to the next level for me.
The first time I saw the music video for "Rockit" I wasn't quite sure what I was watching, but I was mesmerized by it. It was created and directed by Godley and Creme who had already done the video for The Police's "Every Breath You Take". That duo would go on to make some of the other best music videos of the decade. "Rockit" featured robot-like moving sculptures/mannequins (created by British artist Jim Whiting) dancing, walking, shaking and gyrating to the music. It was definitely a unique concept and a surreal visual display to say the least. Hancock himself was only shown a few times playing keyboard on a television screen in the room and that television was shown being smashed on the ground at the end of the video. All together, it still remains one of my favorite and most memorable videos. Without further ado, here is the music video for "Rockit" by Herbie Hancock...
The music video certainly drove the popularity and success of "Rockit" since it did not get much radio play. The goal was to get the video played on MTV and black artists were still not played very regularly on the channel back then (especially a 43-year-old black jazz musician). So Hancock's limited appearance in the video was intentional in the hopes that might take the race factor out of it. Whatever the reason, it worked and "Rockit" received heavy rotation on MTV.
The song reached #1 on the Billboard Dance Chart in the U.S. and reached the Top 10 on the pop charts of at least ten other countries. It drove Hancock's Future Shock album to platinum status selling over a million copies. "Rockit" won a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1983 and it won five MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 (including Best Concept Video, Best Special Effects, Best Art Direction and Most Experimental Video). The video also won two Billboard Video Music Awards, one for Most Innovative Video and another for Best Art Direction. "Rockit" by Herbie Hancock was a trailblazing music video in the early '80s which served to set the bar very high for videos to come.
Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!