STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.
FAITH LAPIDUS: And I'm Faith Lapidus. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame welcomed new members into its highly respected club last week. The ceremony took place March fourteenth at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. It was recorded for a television broadcast Sunday night. Today we take a look at the five performers inducted into the Hall of Fame and play some of their music.
STEVE EMBER: The shock rock band Alice Cooper is among the new members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band is as well known for its extraordinary stage performances as it is for its music. Alice Cooper’s extreme clothing, face make-up, fake blood and crazy behavior have entertained audiences for nearly fifty years. Lead singer Vincent Furnier’s snake was often part of the stage act. Alice Cooper concerts were like funny horror shows set to music.
Alice Cooper gives his induction speech with a snake around his neck at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony last week in New York
FAITH LAPIDUS: The five-member band began playing music together as high school students in Phoenix, Arizona. They took the name Alice Cooper in nineteen sixty-eight. Their nineteen seventy-two song “School’s Out” was their first major hit.
STEVE EMBER: Years later, lead singer Vincent Furnier had his name legally changed to Alice Cooper. He became an equally successful solo artist after the band broke up. “Welcome to My Nightmare” was his first solo album in nineteen seventy-five. “Only Women Bleed” was his first solo hit.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Louisiana native Dr. John also gives unusual stage performances. He is popular for his carnival-like Mardi Gras costumes and performances. Many of them include ceremonies involving a special kind of magic or witchcraft known as voodoo. Dr. John began his music career in the nineteen fifties. He combines several different kinds of music, including blues, pop, rock, folk and a special music of Louisiana called Zydeco.
(MUSIC “Mama Roux”/Dr. John)
Dr. John, right, is presented his trophy by John Legend at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony
STEVE EMBER: Dr. John was born Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr. in nineteen forty-one. He learned to play piano and guitar as a child. He was a popular club musician by the time he was seventeen.
(MUSIC “Honey Dripper”/Dr. John)
Dr. John’s first album, “Gris Gris,” was released in nineteen sixty-eight. Many critics say it is still his best. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it in the top third of its Five Hundred Greatest Albums of All Time.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Singer and songwriter Neil Diamond was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Diamond began his professional career in nineteen sixty writing songs for other artists.
Inductee Neil Diamond accepts his trophy at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Several years later he began singing his own music. He became well known for his adult style of pop music. Neil Diamond has sold more than one hundred twenty-five million records during his career. More than fifty of his songs have made it to Billboard’s Hot One Hundred Singles Chart. “Cracklin’ Rosie” became his first number one hit in nineteen seventy.
STEVE EMBER: Tom Waits is a singer/songwriter whose voice sounds like a truck crossing over hundreds of stones. It has a deep, rough and dark quality. It is the perfect balance to the touching poetry of his songs. Tom Waits’ music touches on the private experiences many people have, like the sweetness that remains from a long-ago love.
(MUSIC “Martha”/Tom Waits)
STEVE EMBER: Tom Waits is a California native. He taught himself to play piano when he was a child. He started playing in a band in high school. Waits released his first album, “Closing Time,” in nineteen seventy-three. It was not immediately popular. But other musicians began to record their own versions of his songs.
Inductee Tom Waits performs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony March 14, 2011, in New York
FAITH LAPIDUS: Tom Waits kept working hard and putting out great music. But he also drank too much alcohol, smoked and travelled all the time for performances. He has said he was very sick in the middle nineteen seventies. But, in time, he quit drinking, got married, had three children and started an acting career. And he continues to write and sing beautiful songs.
(MUSIC “Innocent When You Dream”/Tom Waits)
STEVE EMBER: Darlene Love was the only woman inducted this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The singer is most famous for a series of hit songs she recorded in the nineteen sixties with producer Phil Spector.
Darlene Love performs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony
She began her career singing in a girl group called the Blossoms. Their first big hit was “He’s a Rebel” in nineteen sixty-two. The song was released under the name of another Phil Spector group called the Crystals. But Darlene Love sang lead vocals with the Blossoms singing background.
STEVE EMBER: Singer, songwriter and musician Leon Russell received this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award for Recording Excellence. It honors great musicians who are not widely known to the public.
Inductee Leon Russell performs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last week in New York
Leon Russell has spent more than fifty years in popular music.
(MUSIC “A Song for You”/Leon Russell)
FAITH LAPIDUS: Our program was written by June Simms and Caty Weaver who was also the producer. I'm Faith Lapidus.
STEVE EMBER: And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.