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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Elvin Jones / Memorial Day / Cicadas - 2004-05-28

Broadcast: May 28, 2004


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


This is Doug Johnson.

On our show this week: music by jazz drummer Elvin Jones, and a question about the Memorial Day holiday. But first, we report about the arrival of some interesting insects!




Thousands of millions of unusual insects have begun invading the eastern United States. Shep O'Neal has the story about the Brood Ten cicadas.


Insect experts have identified many different kinds of cicadas. At least one group appears every summer, but the group known as Brood Ten is the largest. They appear every seventeen years.

For the past seventeen years, the insects have been living underground, getting food from tree roots. Then they come up out of the ground to mate before they die.

These cicadas can be found this summer across fifteen states, from New York to Missouri and as far south as Georgia. The largest numbers will appear in parts of Indiana and Ohio.

People there can expect between one-hundred-thousand and more than one-million cicadas per hectare in places. The experts say that the group known as Brood Ten is the largest insect appearance in the world. It will involve thousands of millions of insects.

Cicadas are about four centimeters long. They are harmless. They do not bite or sting. They have black bodies, red eyes and red legs. They fly using orange-colored wings. And they make a rather loud noise that sounds like this:


Male cicadas make this noise to attract females. After they mate, the female lays her eggs at the top of a tree. When the eggs hatch, the tiny cicadas drop from the tree and dig into the ground where they will live for seventeen years. Experts say that many animals love to eat cicadas, including birds, snakes, squirrels, cats and dogs. Some people eat cicadas, too. But they cook the insects first. The cicadas that are not eaten survive to lay eggs and produce young.

Experts say that is the secret to the survival of the Brood Ten cicadas. Animals may eat as many as they can. Yet enough cicadas survive to continue the species so the young will appear again in seventeen more years.


Memorial Day


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Hoai Phi asks about the Memorial Day holiday in the United States.

Americans will celebrate Memorial Day on Monday, May thirty-first. It is the holiday that honors the men and women who died fighting in wars for the United States.

The story of Memorial Day begins after the American Civil War in the eighteen-sixties. It was the idea of the daughter of a Union officer who had been killed in battle. She wrote a letter to an organization of soldiers who had served in the Union Army of the northern states that had won the Civil War. She described a German tradition of placing flowers on soldiers’ burial places each spring. She said Americans should decorate soldiers’ burial places the same way.

The commander of the soldiers’ organization agreed. He ordered that May thirtieth, eighteen-sixty-eight be named “Decoration Day” to honor soldiers who had died in the Civil War.

“Decoration Day” became popular. It was also called “Memorial Day.” A confederate Memorial Day was observed in some southern states.

New York was the first state to declare Memorial Day a legal state holiday. That was in eighteen-seventy-three. Congress made it a national holiday in eighteen-eighty-eight. After World War One, Memorial Day became a day to remember those who died in all the nation’s wars.

Today, Americans celebrate Memorial Day in different ways. Towns and cities across the nation hold parades over Memorial Day weekend. Many people attend special ceremonies to hear speeches and band music. People enjoy the warm spring weather with their families. They may cook dinner outdoors, go swimming or have a party with friends.

Some people travel to Washington, D.C. to attend national Memorial Day ceremonies. This weekend, many people from around the country are in Washington for the opening of the new National World War Two Memorial. You can hear more about the new memorial on the Special English program This is America on Monday.


Elvin Jones


American jazz drummer Elvin Jones died last week in New Jersey. Faith Lapidus remembers the extremely influential artist.


Elvin Jones said he loved the drums since he was two years old. He said he knew he was not going to be a doctor or a firefighter, but a drummer.

So, at thirteen, he began teaching himself how to play. Over time, he took drumming to a new level in jazz music. One expert said Elvin Jones created a circle of sound. Listen to his music composition, “George and Me.”


In nineteen-sixty, jazz saxophonist John Coltrane formed his first band. He invited Elvin Jones to join. The drummer stayed in the John Coltrane Quartet for six years. Elvin Jones described his working relationship with Coltrane as almost perfect harmony.

Here Elvin Jones and the Quartet play “Resolution” from the album “A Love Supreme.”


Elvin Jones formed his own group after he left the Quartet. He continued to perform until the very last weeks of his life. Elvin Jones was seventy-six when he died. We leave you now with “It’s Easy to Remember,” an Elvin Jones group recording from nineteen-eighty-four.



This is Doug Johnson.

Send your questions about American life to Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, USA.

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Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. Mario Ritter was our producer.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.