MTV at 40: Stars Who Got Their Start on Music Television

Photo Courtesy: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images; Theo Wargo/Getty Images

“Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” With those words — the first that were ever played on the station — MTV made television history. Launched to great fanfare on August 1, 1981, with a broadcast of the Buggles’ cleverly prophetic “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the channel sought to do something none had ever tried before: “revolutionize the music industry” by playing music videos 24/7/365 (save for the occasional introductions and interludes from video jockeys).

The station’s audacious beginning was followed by years of entertaining videos and trendsetting cultural programming that made stars out of its central performers. Groundbreaking music videos (hello, “Thriller”), reality shows and game shows allowed audiences to see epic musicians and one-hit-wonders alike in new ways while also introducing the world to future stars who’d eventually become household names. As the channel looks back at four decades’ worth of pop culture-defining content, we’re taking a peek at memorable MTV stars who rose to fame thanks to the iconic station.