16 August, 2012
PAT BODNER: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Pat Bodner. This week, we explore music from a band that's been gone a while, a band that's been popular for a long while and a musician who has recently changed his style and his name.
We also read some of your recent comments.
But first, we head south to a very loud competition you may be hearing about for the first time.
PAT BODNER: Tractor pulling began as a simple competition in rural areas. Farmers would compete to see whose horses or tractors were the most powerful and could pull the heaviest load.
The popularity of tractor pulling competition grew and so did events that featured it. Now, the sport can be found around much of the country. Christopher Cruise tells us about the yearly tractor pull in Chapel Hill, Tennessee.
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Chapel Hill held its first tractor pull in nineteen seventy-six. Now the national competition called "Pull of the South," takes place every July.
Here's how it works. People transport their tractors and other pullers to Chapel Hill in large trucks. The competition vehicles do not look like tractors you might find plowing farm fields across America. These vehicles are marked with colorful designs and often the name of the owner or company sponsor. Thousands of people come from across the United States to attend the competition.
The competition begins when the tractors line up at the start of a one hundred meter track. Long sled devices are attached to the tractors. The sleds are then weighted with loads up to twenty-nine thousand kilograms.
The tractors start up their engines. They run on alcohol fuel. As the tractors move, their loads slide from the back to the front of the sled. This adds to the difficulty of the pull.
The driver who makes the longest pull wins the competition.
The engines of these tractors are extremely loud. In fact, many in the audience use devices like ear plugs to protect their hearing.
After the competition ends, and the engines are quiet, some fans describe tell us why they love the event.
FAN ONE: "The first time I came was last year and I was pretty blown away. I've never seen anything like it."
FAN TWO: "I've been coming to this since nineteen-seventy-seven. I hate to miss one."
FAN THREE: "We love to the smoke roll up in the sky. I mean, it's, it's power."
Tractor pull competitions do not make for huge prize earnings. But, team owners spend huge amounts to keep their crews and equipment competitive.
Puller Jim Martell explains.
JIM MARTELL: "Well, these tractors here are upwards of two hundred fifty to three hundred thousand dollars a piece. And, on any given night the most that we can pull for is two thousand dollars. So, it's actually not a money-making deal. It's basically trying to get your money back and just, kind of, stay even with it."
Wealthy business owners or famers with large corporations support most tractor pulling teams. They like that the tractors carry their names in front of large audiences. Jim Martell says the pulling community is a closely tied community.
JIM MARTELL: "The camaraderie with the fans, and the other pullers, it's one big family."
The tractor pulling season will soon come to an end. One of the last major competitions takes place August seventeenth in Bowling Green, Ohio. However, pulling has become a worldwide sport. In September, a European championship will be held in Fuchtorf, Germany.
FAITH LAPIDUS: And now we take a look at a few of your comments about some of our recent stories.
Last month, Steve Ember told about the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera. He remembered getting his first as a boy and it changed his life forever. He remains an enthusiastic photographer.
A listener in south India wrote to say he found the report "amazingly enjoyable." He said, VOA has made it possible for us to lead a journey to our childhood through the camera. He added that he thinks history is best understood through photographs. Hail to the camera, he wrote.
Also last month we reported about some older Americans who were singing to improve their health. Jadwinga from Poland liked this idea. Jadwinga wrote I think it is nice and a good idea to work with old people. The program of singing and performing together makes them happier, healthier and more necessary.
Finally, Jean wrote to use about recent stories about fighter Mike Tyson and an Olympic boxing hopeful Rau'shee Warren. Jean considers as heroes all the athletes who struggle to be in the Olympics. It's not easy to do well especially under unimaginable pressure. And Jean noted the difficulties that can come when athletes win. When they succeed, huge wealth comes to them. So do different kinds of challenges. Boxer Mike Tyson is a good example. It's even harder not to get lost."
Thanks to all of you for your comments. And, please, keep them coming. To do so, visit our website at 51voa.com. We want to hear what you think of all our programs.
PAT BODNER: Some performers go away for a while, others never go out of style and then there are those who like the element of surprise. This week we listen to some new releases from artists who fit all these descriptions. Here's Barbara Klein.
BARBARA KLEIN: It has been eleven years since No Doubt has released a new album. Lead singer Gwen Stefani began recording alone several years ago. Other band members also worked on solo projects.
But No Doubt re-grouped in two thousand eight. A new CD "Push and Shove" will come out next month. A single from the album was released last month and is currently on Billboard Magazine's Hot One Hundred List. It's called "Settle Down."
Hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg has changed his name for a new album he is working on. He has told reporters that he had to re-invent himself for his new sound: reggae. So, Snoop Dogg went to Jamaica this year and came back Snoop Lion.
His reggae album, "Reincarnated" is expected out sometime in autumn. A film about his experience in Jamaica is also in production.
Snoop Lion's first single is "La La La."
Robin, Maurice and Barry Gibb formed the British band the Bee Gees in the nineteen fifties. But their greatest fame came in the late nineteen seventies with the release of the soundtrack to the movie "Saturday Night Fever."
Now, Barry Gibb is the only surviving Bee Gee. Maurice died in two thousand three and Robin died in April. But the Bee Gees are still popular. In August, a Bee Gees recording from two thousand four re-entered Billboard's top two hundred albums chart. The greatest hits album is called "Number Ones," and includes the nineteen seventy-seven song, "More Than A Woman."
PAT BODNER: I'm Pat Bodner. This program was written Kim Varzi and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer. Mike Osbourne provided additional reporting.
Go to 51voa.com to find transcripts and MP3s of our programs.
Join us again next week for music and more on AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.