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The People's Choices? 'Twilight,' Depp, Swift and More


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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. This week, we play music by America's "ambassador of jazz," Billy Taylor, who died last week in New York ...

We also answer a question about business leader and aid donor Bill Gates ...

But first a report on the People's Choice Awards held Wednesday in Los Angeles.

People's Choice Awards

Stars of music, movies, and television appeared Wednesday night for the thirty-seventh yearly People's Choice Awards in Los Angeles. It is the only major awards event in America where fans decide who takes home a prize. Chris Cruise tells about the show and some of the winners.

CHRIS CRUISE: The first People's Choice Awards show was in nineteen seventy-five. The Gallup company decided the winners by public opinion studies. For thirty years, the People's Choice Awards were decided this way.

But the Internet has brought the awards ceremony into the modern age. The "people" began making their choices directly on the Web in two thousand five.

Actress Lisa Edelstein playfully honored that process in her acceptance speech at the awards ceremony. She won for favorite TV drama actress for her role as Dr. Cuddy on the show "House." She thanked, by name, Twitter voters whose Twitter names she really enjoyed. All included "Lisa" or "Cuddy" or "Stein" in some part of their online name.

Conan O'Brien expressed true thankfulness to the fans who voted him favorite talk show host. He said they made what could have been a terrible year the best one of his life. Last year, NBC television officials dismissed O'Brien from his new job as host of "The Tonight Show" so that former host Jay Leno could return to it. Now, O'Brien has a new show on the cable television station TBS.

Johnny Depp won favorite movie actor for the second straight year. However, the real win for him seemed to be receiving the award from country music star Taylor Swift. He told the singer: "My daughter said if I didn't say 'hi' to you I'd be in trouble, so 'hi' from my daughter." Swift immediately waved back.

Taylor Swift won an award herself. She was voted favorite country artist.

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" did very well at the People's Choice Awards. It won the favorite movie and the favorite drama movie awards.

The three main actors won favorite on-screen team. And Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella, won favorite movie actress. Stewart received cheers when she noted that she and her co-stars were currently shooting another "Twilight" movie. But she said it was a little strange to be at the awards ceremony.

"I was a vampire this morning in Baton Rouge," she said.

Bill Gates

This week our listener question comes from Cambodia. Yin Chao wants to know how Bill Gates became so rich and successful.

Bill Gates is one of the founders of the software company Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world. He was born in nineteen fifty-five in Seattle, Washington. He attended Harvard University in Massachusetts. But he left after three years without graduating.

In nineteen seventy-four, while he was still at Harvard, he started Microsoft with his friend Paul Allen. It would become the largest software company in the world and one of the most powerful and influential companies in history.

Microsoft invented many computer programs that have been used in homes, offices and schools around the world. They include the MS-DOS operating system, the Windows operating system and the Internet Explorer browser. These programs revolutionized the way people use computers and search for information on the Internet.

Bill Gates made many smart business decisions. One of the best decisions was to keep ownership of the software he had written. Many computer experts believed that hardware was more important than software, but Gates did not agree. And time has proven him correct.

Bill Gates was Microsoft's largest shareholder. At the age of thirty-one, he became a billionaire. By nineteen ninety-nine, reports said he was worth about one hundred billion dollars. But by two thousand two, the price of his Microsoft stock had dropped. He was worth "just" fifty-three billion dollars. However, that was still enough to keep him at the top of Forbes magazine's list of the world's richest people.

Many people respect Bill Gates but some do not like him. They believe he hurt other businesses so he could be successful. The United States government and the European Union believed Microsoft had too much power and too large a portion of the software market. The United States brought legal action against the company. The EU fined the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

In two thousand eight, Bill Gates stopped running Microsoft but remained as chairman. He continues working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has given billions of dollars for health and education programs around the world.

Bill Gates has been described as demanding, competitive and aggressive. He said he became successful because he worked hard to make his dreams come true. He also said it is important to work with smart people and to think about where you want to be in a few years. And, he said, you should never stop learning.

Billy Taylor

America lost one of its greatest jazz musicians last week. Pianist, composer and educator Billy Taylor died of heart failure December twenty-eighth in New York City. He was eighty-nine. Faith Lapidus has more about the man and his music.

Billy Taylor played jazz and wrote jazz. He taught about it in classrooms and to audiences live, and on television and radio broadcasts. He was also known as an international ambassador of jazz. He traveled around the world setting up jazz workshops, programs and shows.

But Billy Taylor also made simply great music. Here is a Billy Taylor Trio performance recorded in nineteen eighty-eight in the former Soviet Union. It is from the album "White Nights and Jazz in Leningrad." The song is called "C-A-G."

Billy Taylor was born in Greenville, North Carolina, but grew up in Washington, D.C. He considered the city his hometown. He heard great music in his own neighborhood at places like the former Howard Theater. He started playing piano when he was seven.

After college in Virginia, Billy Taylor moved to New York City in nineteen forty-four. He began playing music with many jazz greats, including Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and John Coltrane.

Here is Billy Taylor performing "I'll be Seeing You" with singer Nancy Wilson.

In nineteen sixty-four Billy Taylor was worried about the state of jazz. He did not think enough young people were hearing it, playing it or learning about it. He thought some free concerts around the Harlem area of New York City would help. So, he set up Jazzmobile.

More than forty-five years later, Jazzmobile concerts continue in New York City, Washington, D.C. and in New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.

Billy Taylor received many awards during his more than seventy years in music. They include the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor the American government gives to artists.

Billy Taylor said playing piano and performing were most important to him.

BILLY TAYLOR: "Everything that I've done stems from those two things; the fact that I love to play the piano and I love to perform for people."

I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Chris Cruise and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer.

If you have a question about American life, write to mosaic@voanews.com. We might answer your question on this show. So please include your name and country.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.


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