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After the Grammys, Some Ask: Who Is Esperanza Spalding?

Lady Gaga arrives inside an egg at the Grammy Awards
Lady Gaga arrives inside an egg at the Grammy Awards

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DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. This week, we answer a question from China about music award shows in America …

We play music by winners of this week’s Grammy Awards …

But first, a moment of silence for some very old movies that were recently returned to the United States from Russia.

Silent Movies

DOUG JOHNSON: Ten important pieces of America’s film history were recently returned to the United States. The films were made during America’s silent movie years, between the early eighteen nineties and nineteen thirty. Faith Lapidus has more.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Copies of the films no longer existed in the United States. They were believed to be lost forever. That is until a few years ago when many silent films from America were discovered in a Russian state archive.

An official from the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library presented the films to the Library of Congress during a ceremony in October. They are the first of nearly two hundred films that were discovered in Russia.

The Library of Congress signed an agreement with Russia last year to have copies of the films donated to the United States. The films are part of a larger project by the Library of Congress to recover America’s silent film history.

More than eighty percent of the movies made during that time no longer exist in the United States. The Library of Congress has been working with other countries to try to find copies of the missing films. One library official compared finding the films in Russia to finding a lost painting by the famous artist Pablo Picasso.

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin

The films are extremely important for the early Hollywood history they represent. They were made by some of the biggest names of the time, like movie director Victor Fleming. His nineteen twenty-three movie “Call of the Wild” was one of the movies recovered. Mr. Fleming later became best known for directing the movie “Gone with the Wind.”

Two films from the year nineteen nineteen were also included in this first shipment from Russia. Both “Valley of the Giants” and “You’re Fired” starred Wallace Reid. The actor was said to be one of the most perfect on-screen lovers. He was one of the most famous actors of his time until his death in nineteen twenty-three.

Another film is called “The Eternal Struggle.” It was one of the last films produced by Metro Pictures Corporation before it became part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MGM, in nineteen twenty-four. That company still exists today.

Film librarians in the United States are now working to restore these lost movies to their original state. Russian words had been inserted into the films to help explain what was happening in the scenes. Library of Congress officials are now trying to find the original text. If they can’t, they will translate the Russian text back into English, and hope that what they get is close to the original English wording.

Music Awards

DOUG JOHNSON: Our question this week comes from Guangzhou, China. Linky would like to know about some of the biggest music awards in the United States. That is a timely question because one of the largest music award ceremonies took place earlier this week. The Recording Academy held its fifty-third Grammy Awards last Sunday in Los Angeles, California. We will tell more about the winners later.

The Recording Academy presents awards to music artists and technicians for their work, not record sales.

The Latin Grammy awards were launched in two thousand. They honor works produced in one of two languages: Spanish or Portuguese. The twelfth Latin Grammy Awards are to be presented nine months from now in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Another popular music awards ceremony is the CMA Awards. The forty-fourth CMA Awards were presented last November in Nashville, Tennessee.

America’s Country Music Association began presenting the awards in nineteen sixty-seven. Since then, singer George Strait has won the most CMA awards -- twenty-two.

Another awards show, the American Music Awards, was first broadcast in nineteen seventy-three. This show recognizes performers in a number of musical fields. They include pop or rock music, country, rap or hip-hop, and soul or rhythm and blues. The twenty-ten AMAs were presented last November. Justin Bieber won four AMA awards, including Artist of the Year.

There are many other music awards, including the MTV Video Music Awards. The first MTV Video Music awards were presented in nineteen eighty-four. Madonna has been the biggest winner. She has received a total of twenty MTV Video Music Awards.


DOUG JOHNSON: The Recording Academy’s Grammy Awards show surprised everyone watching. Not only did the always interesting Lady Gaga show up inside a large egg-like structure, but unknown artists also won top prizes. Bob Doughty has more.

BOB DOUGHTY: It was unforgettable to see Lady Gaga come out of that egg and perform her hit song “Born This Way.”


It was even more exciting when Jewel and John Legend announced the winner of the best new artist Grammy. Pop star Justin Bieber had been widely expected to win the award. His album “My World 2.0” has spent the past forty-six weeks on Billboard’s Two Hundred top-selling albums chart. Justin Bieber is so popular with girls around the world the excitement he creates is called “Bieber Fever.”

Esperanza Spalding accepts the Grammy for best new artist
Esperanza Spalding accepts the Grammy for best new artist

But on February thirteenth, the Grammy went to jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding. You might remember her name from a story we did on the twenty-five year old musician last April.

Here, Esperanza Spalding performs “Little Fly” from her album “Chamber Music Society,” released last August.


The biggest winner at the Grammy awards last Sunday was the country band Lady Antebellum. They walked away with five awards, including record of the year, song of the year and best country album for “Need You Now.” Here the band performs the title cut.

Members of Lady Antebellum, from left, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood
Members of Lady Antebellum, from left, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood


There was at least one emotional winner at the ceremony. Singer Mavis Staples received her first Grammy ever. The seventy-one year old cried tears of joy as she told the crowd the award was “a long time coming” but worth the wait.

Mavis Staples won the Grammy for best Americana album for “You Are Not Alone.” Here she performs “I Belong to the Band.”


Finally, in another surprise win, the Canadian group Arcade Fire became the first indie rock band to win the Grammy for album of the year. We leave you with Arcade Fire performing “The Suburbs” from its winning album of the same name.

Arcade Fire backstage at the Grammy Awards
Arcade Fire backstage at the Grammy Awards


DOUG JOHNSON: I’m Doug Johnson. Our program was written by June Simms, George Grow and Caty Weaver who was also the producer.

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