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Remembering the Man Who Gave Rock 'n' Roll the 'Bo Diddley Beat'

Also: The Library of Congress adds to its National Recording Registry. And a listener in Iran wants to know more about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I’m Doug Johnson.

Today we tell about the new additions to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry ...

Answer a question about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology …

And remember musician Bo Diddley who died this week.


National Recording Registry


The United States Library of Congress has added twenty-five more sounds to its National Recording Registry. They include the best selling pop music album of all time, the first broadcast across the Atlantic Ocean and some noise from Earth that was sent into space. Faith Lapidus has our report.


The National Recording Registry began its work in two thousand. Its goal is to protect the “sound” history of the nation. It currently holds about two hundred fifty recordings.

The latest additions include a former Mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia. Listen as he does his part to help the city during a newspaper delivery strike in nineteen forty-five. The mayor read the newspaper comic strips over the radio to New York City children.

FIORELLO LAGUARDIA: “Now children, I know you’re all disappointed today that you didn’t get the funnies, so gather around. Here’s ‘Dick Tracy.’ Let’s see what ‘Dick Tracy’ is doing…”

The nineteen seventy-three jazz album, “Head Hunters,” by pianist and composer Herbie Hancock also made the registry. Here is some of the title track.


The Library of Congress also added Michael Jackson’s huge hit album, “Thriller.”


Released in nineteen eighty-two, “Thriller” remains the top selling album of all time.

KURT WALDHEIM: “I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet.”

That was former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim on a recording called “Sounds of the Earth.” A NASA spacecraft took the recording on a trip to the outer planets and beyond in nineteen seventy-seven. The recording included sounds of nature, wildlife, and human culture as well as messages in fifty-five languages.

Roy Orbison is also on the registry with his song “Oh, Pretty Woman” from nineteen sixty-four.


The National Recording Registry also includes the first trans-Atlantic radio broadcast in nineteen twenty-five. Radio broadcasts from Ronald Reagan in the nineteen seventies shortly before he became president of the United States. And this nineteen fifty-nine recording written and sung by Elizabeth Cotten. It is a North Carolina folk song called “Freight Train.”


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Our listener question this week comes from Mohamad Firouzi in Iran. He would like to know more about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT. This famous university in Cambridge is best known for producing top scientists, architects, and engineers.

In the mid nineteenth century, the scientist and educator William Barton Rogers began working to establish a university that would teach the sciences as well as provide education about the arts. He received official permission from state lawmakers to create the school in eighteen sixty-one. MIT first began holding classes four years later. This school was one of the first to include laboratory experiments in the classroom. This way, students could learn by working on real experiments rather than just by listening to a teacher talk about theory.

In nineteen sixteen, MIT moved across the Charles River from Boston to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Today, MIT has about four thousand undergraduate students and about six thousand graduate students. Among them are about four hundred undergraduates and about two thousand five hundred graduate students from more than one hundred foreign countries.

To attend this school, students pay about thirty-four thousand dollars an academic year. MIT is one of the most selective schools in the United States. Last year, only about twelve percent of those who applied as first year students were offered admission.

Most people may think MIT only offers science and engineering programs. MIT researchers are often noted for new studies, discoveries and experiments. And, over twenty-five former students at MIT have won Nobel prizes for work in science and economics and even peace.

However, MIT also has schools of architecture, management, and humanities, arts and social sciences. And, there is also a college of health sciences and technology. Undergraduate students in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences can get degrees in anthropology, comparative media studies or literature.

Bo Diddley


One of America's first rock and rollers died this week. Celebrated guitarist, singer and songwriter Bo Diddley was seventy-nine. Katherine Cole tells about him and plays some of his music.

(MUSIC: “Who Do You Love”)


That was “Who Do You Love” from the musician’s first album, “Bo Diddley.” It came out in nineteen fifty-eight. Bo Diddley was one of the most influential musicians of the nineteen fifties and sixties. The guitarist combined rhythm and blues with Latin and African musical influences and created a new sound all his own -- the “Bo Diddley beat.” Many performers copied this sound, including the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and the Who.

Here is Bo Diddley performing “I’m a Man,” one of his early hits.


Bo Diddley was born Otha Ellas Bates in the state of Mississippi in nineteen twenty-eight. He grew up in Chicago, Illinois. By age seven he could play the violin. He taught himself to play guitar when he was a teenager. He said blues musician John Lee Hooker was a major musical influence.

As a young man, he changed his name to Bo Diddley and started playing music on the streets of Chicago. He formed a band and started playing in clubs. He signed a recording contract with Chess Records in nineteen fifty-five.

Bo Diddley made hit records throughout the nineteen sixties. Many British rock bands recorded versions of his songs that also became popular.

Bo Diddley was admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in nineteen eighty-seven. He received a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California. And he was honored with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in nineteen ninety-eight.

Bo Diddley kept performing live shows until last year. He stopped performing after suffering a stroke at a concert in Iowa. He died of heart failure June second at his home in Archer, Florida.

We leave you with Bo Diddley performing “Pretty Thing.”



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

It was written by Caty Weaver and Dana Demange, who also 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.