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'Modern Times': Bob Dylan Returns to the Top of the Music World


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We answer a question about the Statue of Liberty …

Play some new music from Bob Dylan …

And report about agricultural fairs across the country.

State Fairs



That was a song from the movie “State Fair”. It is about one family’s experiences attending an agricultural fair. Almost all fifty American states hold such events. They usually take place in August, September or October. Shirley Griffith has more.

Shirley Griffith:

American agricultural fairs were traditionally held to honor the work of local farmers. Farmers and their families came to the fair to show their crops and animals and compete for prizes. Today, there are hundreds of state and local county fairs. Millions of people visit them. Some fairs last up to three weeks.

One of the most famous state fairs takes place every summer in the state of Iowa. The Iowa state fair began in eighteen fifty-four. Today, one million people visit the Iowa state fair each year.

A popular competition at state fairs is the cooking contest. People prepare food such as pies. Expert judges decide which ones are the best. Winners receive prizes.

Other people take part in food eating contests. They try to eat the most food in a short period of time. The Georgia state fair takes place later this month. Its program lists a hot dog eating contest, a pizza eating contest, a donut eating contest, a corn-on-the-cob eating contest and a chicken wing eating contest!

People who visit a fair enjoy watching such contests. They can also see dogs guiding sheep together into herds. They can examine new home products and farm equipment. At some fairs, they can watch cars race or crash into each other at events called demolition derbies. They can attend live music shows with performances by famous entertainers. Children can go on rides. And, of course, everyone can eat many different kinds of food. Anyone who has been to an agricultural fair knows that there is no reason why anyone should go home hungry.

Statue of Liberty

Our VOA listener question this week comes from Iran. Amir Hossein asks about the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty represents a woman holding a torch of fire. It stands on an island at the entrance to the New York City harbor. It is almost ninety-three meters tall, one of the tallest statues ever built. Its complete name is “Liberty Enlightening the World”.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France. It was an expression of the friendship and liberty shared by the people of both countries.

The idea for the statue came from a French history expert in eighteen sixty-five. Six years later, artist Frederic Bartholdi traveled to the United States to seek support for building the statue. He decided it should stand on an island in New York harbor.

Bartholdi began designing the statue when he returned to France. He designed the statue’s face to look like his mother’s. French officials organized a group to raise money and supervise the project. The French people gave four hundred thousand dollars to build the statue. In eighteen seventy-seven, the Americans established a similar committee to raise money needed to build the statue’s base.

The statue was built in France. Bartholdi had hoped it would be ready on the one hundredth anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence in eighteen seventy-six. But it was not. France officially presented the statue to the United States minister to France in Paris on July fourth, eighteen eighty-four.

The statue was then taken apart and sent to the United States. “Liberty Enlightening the World” was completed in the United States in eighteen eighty-six. New York City celebrated with a huge parade. President Grover Cleveland and other American and French officials attended the ceremonies.

Since then, the Statue of Liberty has been a symbol of freedom for people all over the world. Its meaning is expressed in the famous poem by Emma Lazarus that is written on the statue’s base. Here is part of that poem.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Bob Dylan's “Modern Times”


Bob Dylan’s new album, “Modern Times,” was released at the end of last month. Critics loved the collection of songs. It soon became the top selling album in the United States. This is Dylan’s first Number One album in thirty years. Mario Ritter has more.


Bob Dylan is one of the world’s most influential songwriters. Over the past forty years, Dylan has sold almost one hundred million records. He has performed in thousands of shows around the world.

His new album, “Modern Times,” shows that Dylan, now sixty-five years old, still has a lot to say. “Modern Times” starts off with this song, called “Thunder on the Mountain.” Some of the words are about singer Alicia Keys.


Bob Dylan started as a folk singer in the nineteen sixties. He wrote several famous protest songs about very serious issues. The songs in “Modern Times” are not as serious. There is a feeling of playfulness in the words of the songs. Dylan sings about the economy, relationships, aging and regret. Here is an example: “Workingman’s Blues Number Two.”


Bob Dylan’s record company says “Modern Times” is the last in a series of three albums. The first was “Time Out of Mind” in nineteen ninety-seven. “Love and Theft” followed in two thousand one.

At an age when other people are retiring, Bob Dylan is still very active. He performs more than one hundred times a year in what he calls his “neverending tour.” He worked with film director Martin Scorsese on a movie about his life. He has a weekly program on American satellite radio. He is writing the second part of his book of memories. And in a few months, his music will be presented in a dance show on Broadway in New York City.

We leave you now with this love song, “Spirit on the Water,” from Bob Dylan’s new album, “Modern Times.”



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

This show was written by Shelley Gollust, Nancy Steinbach and Jerilyn Watson. Caty Weaver was the producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

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