Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week:
We listen to music from Lucinda Williams …
Answer a listener question about actor Marlon Brando …
But first, we remember the popular writer Michael Crichton, who died last week.
Michael Crichton wrote exciting and intense books that explored the moral and political sides of science and technology. His best-selling books included "The Andromeda Strain", "Congo" "Jurassic Park" and "Rising Sun." Many of his books were made into popular movies. Mr. Crichton died last week of cancer at the age of sixty-six. Bob Doughty tells us more about his life and successful career.
Michael Crichton was born in nineteen forty-two in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in the Long Island area of New York. He studied English at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but later changed his degree to anthropology. In nineteen sixty-six, he began medical school at Harvard.
To help pay for his studies, Crichton began writing novels. In nineteen sixty-nine he wrote "The Andromeda Strain." It is about a group of scientists who try to stop the spread of a deadly organism from space. The book became a huge best-seller and was made into a movie. Mr. Crichton soon gave up his medical career to spend more time writing.
He published "The Terminal Man" in nineteen seventy-two. It tells about a man who has a computer device put into his brain to improve a mental disorder. But the man becomes a killing machine when the technology fails. In Mr. Crichton's book "Congo", violent gorillas attack a group of explorers trying to find a special kind of diamond that could change modern technology.
Michael Crichton's most famous book was "Jurassic Park," published in nineteen ninety. It is about scientists who create genetic copies of dinosaurs. But the dinosaurs soon take control of their creators. The film version three years later was also a huge success.
Michael Crichton's books have sold more than one hundred fifty million copies. But he had his critics as well. Some critics thought his books had weak characters and were written to be movies, not literature. Critics attacked Mr. Crichton as racist for his description of Japanese businessmen in the book "Rising Sun." Others denounced Crichton's book "State of Fear" about evil environmentalists who create fear about the existence and cause of climate change.
Michael Crichton was also involved in movies and television. He directed many of the movies based on his books. He even helped create the popular television show "E.R." about an emergency room in a busy hospital. Mr. Crichton combined his knowledge of science, technology, and medicine to bring exciting entertainment to millions of people around the world.
Our listener question this week comes from France. Claude wants to know about the life of famed American actor Marlon Brando.
MARLON BRANDO: "You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum which is what I am, let's face it."
That was Marlon Brando playing a former boxer in the nineteen fifty-four movie "On the Waterfront." Marlon Brando was somebody, of course. Many critics say he was the greatest actor of all time. And many actors say Brando influenced them more than any other person in the movie industry.
Marlon Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in nineteen twenty-four. His mother was an actress. His father was a salesman. His childhood was not happy. In a book about his life, Brando wrote that both his parents were dependent on alcohol. He wrote that his father never said anything good about his son.
Marlon Brando linked his interest in acting to the painful years of his childhood. He said a child who feels unaccepted by his parents will search for a different identity that will be acceptable.
When he was nineteen, Brando moved to New York City. He studied acting and learned what is called the "method" style of realistic acting. In nineteen forty-seven, he became a Broadway star with his famous performance as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' play, "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Brando's fame grew in nineteen fifty-one when he acted the same part in the film version of "A Streetcar Named Desire." Brando acted in more than forty movies. He won two Academy Awards for Best Actor. One was for his work in "On the Waterfront." The other was for playing Vito Corleone, the powerful head of a criminal organization in "The Godfather" in nineteen seventy-two. He was nominated for five other Academy Awards.
The actor was active in the civil rights movement and protested the way Native Americans were represented in movies.
Marlon Brando was a private man but he did not lead a quiet or easy life. He was married three times. He had at least seven children. Brando dealt with several tragedies. One of his sons was sent to prison for killing a man. Brando's daughter, Cheyenne, killed herself in nineteen-ninety-five.
Marlon Brando died in two thousand four, at the age of eighty. To learn more about this famous actor, listen to the Special English program People in America this Sunday, November sixteenth.
Lucinda Williams has been recording music for over thirty years. This musician from Louisiana is known for her country songs influenced by blues music. Her songs express the dark and moody side of love. But her latest album, "Little Honey," has a happier message. Critics say this is her most joyful album yet. Barbara Klein has more.
That was the song "Honey Bee." It is one of several songs on the album "Little Honey" that tells about the happiness of being in love. The songs were influenced by Lucinda Williams' future husband and current manager, Tom Overby.
Williams says she can grow as a songwriter now that she has finally found the right relationship. She says that personally, professionally, and creatively she is in the best place she has ever been in her adult life.
Here is the song "Jailhouse Tears" which Williams sings with the musician Elvis Costello.
Lucinda Williams says conditions have to be perfect for her to write songs. She needs to be alone with her guitar with room to spread out her notes about song ideas. She says her father, the poet Miller Williams, had a big influence teaching her about artistic expression. She says she grew up economically poor, but culturally rich.
Lucinda Williams says one thing that the songs on her new album have in common is that they are direct. She says the beauty of country and blues music is expressing ideas in a simple and direct way. We leave you with "Real Love."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Caty Weaver and Dana Demange, who was also our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.