How A Music Video of David Bowie's Song Describes Racism
"Let's Dance", one of David Bowie's biggest-selling tracks from his 1983 album of the same name, was released as the first single in March 1983. The song introduced Bowie to a new, younger audience oblivious to his former career in the 1970s. Stevie Ray Vaughan played the guitar solo at the end of the song.
The music video of Let's Dance featuring Aboriginal Australians couple. It describes racism in both real and surreal way. Bowie described the music video as "very simple, very direct" statements against racism and oppression, but also a very direct statement about integration of one culture with another.
In the beginning it featured Bowie with a double bass player inside the one-room pub at the Carinda Hotel and an Aboriginal couple 'naturally' dancing "to the song they're playin' on the radio".
The couple wanders solemnly through the outback with some other Aboriginals, when the young woman finds a pair of mystical red shoes on a desert mountain and instantly learns to dance.
Soon, the couple visiting museums, enjoying candlelit dinners, and casually dropping credit cards, and then drunk on modernity and consumerism. During a stroll through an arcade of shops, the couple spots the same pair of red shoes for sale in a window display, their personal key to joy and freedom.
They toss away the magic kicks in revulsion, stomping them into the dust, and return to the mountains, taking one final look at the city they’ve left behind.
The music video was made in March 1983 by David Mallet on location in Australia including a bar in Carinda in New South Wales and the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran. As Bowie opted for real people, some residents of the 194-souls village of Carinda are in a pub, watching and mocking at the couple. They do not believe who David is nor what the take is all about, hence their behaviour towards the couple as seen in the video is real.
The couple in the whole video is played by Terry Roberts and Joelene King, two students from Sydney's Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre.
In the music video, Bowie inserted numerous references to the Stolen Generations. For example, the scene where the young woman scrubs the street on her knees in the middle of a busy street refers to Aboriginal children that were trained as domestic servants before being sent to white homes.
The red shoes mentioned in the song's lyrics appear in several contexts. "The red shoes are a found symbol. They are the simplicity of the capitalist society and sort of striving for success - black music is all about 'Put on your red shoes'", as Bowie confirmed. Bowie's calling 'put on your red shoes' recalls Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Red Shoes", in which the little girl was vainly tempted to wear the shoes only to find they could not been removed, separating her from God's grace - "let's dance for fear your grace should fall".