Accessibility links

Breaking News

How Did He Do It? Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and His 10 NBA Titles

New music from Madeleine Peyroux, and a question from China about John Denver, the folk singer who died in 1997. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson.

On today's program, we tell about Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson …

Answer a question about folk singer John Denver …

And hear music by Madeleine Peyroux.



The National Basketball Association recently chose new players to join its teams. These new professional athletes are training to win basketball games and championships. Their coaches are working to design winning plays and powerful teams. One coach recently was recognized as the most successful at doing this. Barbara Klein has more about Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and his recent historic victory.


On June fourteenth, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic to win the National Basketball Association championship. But that was not the only major victory that night.

Basketball fans cheered Lakers head coach Phil Jackson as he became the only head coach in NBA history to win ten national championships. NBA coach Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics had held the record with nine championship victories. Auerbach died in two thousand six.

Phil Jackson is known for his easy style of coaching. This is a result of spiritual influences he learned from his parents who were religious workers. His supporters say his calm style shows he trusts his players to perform well by learning from their mistakes.

But others have criticized Jackson for calmly sitting during games instead of showing great emotion. Other coaches walk along the sidelines and shout at the players. Critics say Jackson's success is not a result of his coaching skills as much as having superstar athletes on his teams.

Still, many people argue that his talent should be recognized because ten national coaching victories do not happen by accident.

Phil Jackson has coached the Lakers for ten years and has led the team to four national championships. He has coached some of the NBA's best basketball players, including Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

Earlier in his career, he won six championships as coach of the Chicago Bulls. That team included Michael Jordan, who is said to be the best basketball player of all time.

The sixty-three year old coach has had operations to replace both of his hips and has problems with his back and knees. But last week, Phil Jackson announced that he will return to coach the Lakers next season.



Our listener question this week comes from a college student in China. Liu Hualong wants to know about the American musician and singer John Denver. Denver was one of the most popular musical artists during the nineteen seventies. He was known for his songs about the beauty of nature. He was also a human rights and environmental activist.

He was born Henry John Deutschendorf, Junior in nineteen-forty three in Roswell, New Mexico. John's grandmother gave him his first musical instrument when he was seven years old. When he began performing, he changed his last name to Denver, after the capital of his favorite state, Colorado.

In nineteen sixty-five, John Denver joined the band called the Chad Mitchell Trio. He later left the group to perform alone. His first hit record was "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in nineteen seventy-one.


He had a very successful career with hit songs like "Sunshine on my Shoulders", "Annie's Song" and "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." This song, "Rocky Mountain High," is one of the official songs of Colorado.


John Denver sold more than one hundred million albums around the world. He received many music industry awards. He used his popularity to support environmental causes. He started an environmental education and research center.

In nineteen-ninety seven, John Denver was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed. A memorial sign where his plane crashed contains lines from his song "Windsong": "So welcome the wind and the wisdom she offers. Follow her summons when she calls again."



Madeleine Peyroux is known for her soft and dreamy voice which she made famous with her hit album, "Careless Love," in two thousand four. On her latest album, "Bare Bones," the thirty-four year old performer continues to combine the sounds of jazz, folk music and the blues. But on this album, Peyroux does not sing songs made famous by other artists. She helped write all eleven songs on the album. Faith Lapidus has more.



That was "Instead," a song that takes listeners back in time. Madeleine Peyroux's voice is most often compared to Billie Holiday.

Peyroux has said that the great blues singers Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith still help shape her identity.

Peyroux first began performing popular jazz and blues songs as a teenager in the streets of Paris, France. She has said that writing the songs on "Bare Bones" was a very new experience, almost like making her first album over again.

Her aim in writing is to keep each song as clear and simple as possible while also telling a story. Madeleine Peyroux says making this record felt good, like opening a shade into sunlight in the morning. Here is the poetic song "Love and Treachery".


We leave you with a song Madeleine Peyroux wrote by herself. She wrote "I Must Be Saved" to honor the folk singer Odetta whom Peyroux calls her spiritual grandmother. Peyroux says the song shows that a person might have troubles, but it is always possible to survive and carry on.



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

It was written by Lawan Davis, Marisel Salazar and Dana Demange who was also the producer. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to You can also write comments about our programs.

Do you have a question about American people, places or things? Send your questions about American life to Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A. Please include your full name and where you live.

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