JUNE SIMMS: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I’m June Simms.
On our show this week, we play some songs from a new album by Dwight Yoakam.
And, we tell about a small but meaningful victory for the people of Washington D.C. who seek more representation in the United States Capitol building.
Frederick Douglass Statue for the Capitol Building
JUNE SIMMS: The people of Washington DC won a long fought battle earlier this month. No, not statehood or a vote in the United States Congress. But, a little more representation than before.
Lawmakers approved a measure permitting a statue of a former Washingtonian to be placed in the Capitol building. The statue of writer, scholar and anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass will be set up near or in Statuary Hall.
Each state is permitted two statues in the Capitol. Each statue represents someone from that state. For example, Virginia provided statues of President George Washington and General Robert E. Lee. Hawaii chose native chief Kamehameha the First as one of its statues. Alabama has a statue of Helen Keller. And so on.
But for years the District of Columbia was denied a statue because it is not a state. And that has angered DC’s congressional representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton. She serves on House of Representatives committees, but her powers are limited. For example, she is not permitted to vote on legislation.
But Ms. Norton attempts to have her say on all issues that affect the citizens of Washington, including statuary representation in the Capitol building. She has been working to pass a measure in Congress for years.
Ms. Norton expressed great pleasure about the final passage by both houses last week. “D.C. residents pay more than their share of federal taxes, and are entitled to have two statues in the Capitol, like every state,” she said.
Frederick Douglass was not a native son of Washington, D.C. But he was born in the neighboring state of Maryland sometime around eighteen eighteen.
Douglass was born a slave. But he escaped to freedom as a teenager. Douglass had learned to read and write as a boy. He continued to educate himself his whole life.
As a leader of the movement to end slavery, Douglass spoke to crowds in many American cities. He is still considered one of the most powerful speakers in American history. He also was a writer and served as an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln.
The District of Columbia asked artist Steven Weitzman to create the bronze statue of Frederick Douglass. It was completed in two thousand seven. The statue shows Douglass standing at a lectern, giving a speech. He is holding a pen and paper to represent his work as a writer.
Mr. Weitzman has also spent years pushing for the statue’s move to the Capitol. Now, he has to wait only a little longer for President Obama to sign the measure into law.
But Delegate Norton’s battle will continue. She says she will keep fighting to get a second statue representing D.C. in the Capitol.
Dwight Yoakam “3 Pears”
JUNE SIMMS: Country music lovers have been waiting five years for Dwight Yoakam to make a new album. That wait ended this week when Warner Brothers Records released “3 Pears.” The singer and songwriter told a reporter the album is, in his words, “a return to the seventeen year old version of me.” Christopher Cruise has more.
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Dwight Yoakam covers a lot of musical territory. He had always honored country music traditions, but added the sharper edge of rock and roll. The songs he writes explore the human condition more deeply than most country pop. His audience is large and mixed as a result. He can count punk, country, pop and blues music lovers among his fans.
“3 Pears” is a perfect example of Dwight Yoakam’s inclusive style. He co-wrote one song with rapper Kid Rock. “Take Hold of My Hand” is about learning to trust love.
Dwight Yoakam performing at a music awards ceremony in June
Yoakam spoke about that idea with a reporter from the Chicago Tribune. He said he believes in “that universal sense that somewhere in existence is the agape version of love. We share something in common with the fabric of the whole universe that connects us,” he said.
In “Take Hold of My Hand,” Yoakam sings: Take hold of my hand / And I'll do what I can / To make everything right / At least for tonight.
Dwight Yoakam also shares production credits on “3 Pears” with indie musician Beck. Yoakam told Billboard magazine that the two of them had crossed paths several times over the years. Yoakam decided to ask Beck to come listen to a few songs. Dwight Yoakam says none of the songs he played for the indie musician became the songs he produced. But he says Beck was helpful giving him direction for making “3 Pears.”
Beck produced “Missing Heart” on the album and this song, “A Heart Like Mine.” You can hear a Beatles influence in the guitar work and percussion.
Dwight Yoakam wrote most of the songs on “Three Pears.” However, he does cover a few songs made famous by others. There is a version of the celebrated Johnny and June Carter Cash song, “Ring of Fire.” It is available only on the “3 Pears” CDs sold at Target stores. This is also true of Yoakam’s surprising cover of the Bee Gees hit, “To Love Somebody.” But the artist also does a modern version of Joe Maphis’ old country hit, “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke.”
Dwight Yoakam has sold more than twenty-five million records since his first release in nineteen eighty six. “3 Pears” is his thirteenth studio album. Yoakam also has a successful career as an actor, film writer and producer in Hollywood.
We leave you with Dwight Yoakam performing “Trying” from his new album “3 Pears.”
JUNE SIMMS: I’m June Simms. This program was written and produced by Caty Weaver.
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