Peter Dougherty, an MTV stalwart who helped develop the music TV network’s influential hip-hop show Yo! MTV Raps, died from a heart attack on Oct. 12. He was 59.
The well-connected New York native is remembered as one of the creative forces who, along with Ted Demme, helped shape the programming culture of MTV in its heyday. It was in the mid-1980s when he began endorsing a program focused on rap music, a genre which was largely ignored on MTV’s channels at the time. He got his wish in August 1988 when the pilot he and Demme developed was beamed for the first time. It proved to be one of the highest rating programs in the broadcaster’s history.
Demme later helmed Yo! MTV Raps, which continued until August 1995. Dougherty relocated to London in 1990 where he served with MTV Europe in numerous creative roles, including head of on-air, before returning to New York in the mid-2000s. Demme passed away in 2002.
Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, has described Dougherty as a “nice guy and one of those great New Yorkers who through their love of music and bravery and stubbornness ensured that hip-hop would have a future. RIP, Pete, and thank you for sharing your story with us.”
Dougherty’s talents spilled into the music video realm. He sat in the director’s chair for the Beastie Boys’ “Hold It Now, Hit It” video and for the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” an enduring Christmas favorite in the U.K.
He also played a prominent role as a subject in the documentary Life On Air, a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of MTV Europe.
Dougherty was “a hooker-upper, a connector,” Adam Horovitz, aka the Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock, told the New York Times. “He was there when things were happening — not just one thing, but all the big things”.