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Remembering Two Bright Stars of Music; 'To the Arctic'

Guitarist Chuck Brown of the U.S. performs on the final day of the 20th St. Lucia Jazz Festival at Pigeon Island. (File Photo - May 8, 2011)
Guitarist Chuck Brown of the U.S. performs on the final day of the 20th St. Lucia Jazz Festival at Pigeon Island. (File Photo - May 8, 2011)

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JUNE SIMMS: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I’m June Simms. This week on our program, we remember two music greats, Chuck Brown and Donna Summe …

But, first, we visit the northern most part of the Earth and the creatures who live there in the movie, “To the Arctic.”


"To The Arctic"

JUNE SIMMS: Few people can visit the Arctic. But soon people all over the world will be able to feel like they have made the trip. A new movie, “To the Arctic,” explores the life and environment in the wilderness area, especially the condition of its polar bears. Barbara Klein has our story.

BARBARA KLEIN: “To the Arctic” is forty-five minutes long. But the film was shot in eight months over a four year period. The director is Greg MacGillivray. He and his brother Shaun produced the film. It was made for release on the huge IMAX theater screens. “To the Arctic” also is 3-D, or three dimensional, giving theater goers the sensation of being part of the action.

Director Greg MacGillivray holds a camera at a showing of "To the Arctic" held in New York city in April 2012.
Director Greg MacGillivray holds a camera at a showing of "To the Arctic" held in New York city in April 2012.
The film tells the story of a mother polar bear and her two cubs. Through their struggle to survive, theatergoers see the results of rising temperatures on the Arctic and its animals. The bears are central to the film because they cannot survive anywhere else. And, the movie says their environment is warming two thirds faster than anywhere else on Earth.

Academy Award winner Meryl Street narrates the film.


“To the Arctic” is part of an international campaign to save the polar bears and their home. Scientists say there are only twenty thousand polar bears alive today. And, they say, their long term existence is at risk.

Nature photographer Florian Schulz has produced a book to go along with the movie. He says the purpose of both works is to educate people about what is happening in Earth’s extreme north.

FLORIAN SCHULZ: “The polar bears won’t be able to survive without the ice, and, right now, scientists are predicting that by two thousand and forty or two thousand and fifty, somewhere in between, the sea ice in the summer will completely go away.”

Mr. Shultz spent eighteen months in the Arctic. He lived in a tent and would get around on a special vehicle powered by the sun’s energy. The extreme cold presented some interesting problems for the work.

FLORIAN SCHULZ: “You have to let your equipment completely freeze and then it will stay frozen. You can’t take it inside your sleeping bag or inside your tent because then the condensation will go on top of it, and then the ice will build and then you don’t get rid of the ice anymore.”

Florian Schultz says there were also some dangerous incidents with wildlife. Like a bear that showed interest in a camera. The animal got within seven meters of the photographer.

FLORIAN SCHULZ: “We then shot with a flare gun at the ground level so the bang was closer to the ground and the bear understood that he should move on. That was definitely a scary moment.”

The movie and book are part of a larger campaign to save polar bears and the Arctic. Suzanne Apple is with the World Wildlife Fund.

SUZANNE APPLE: “This area that we are focused on called the last ice area in northern Canada, Greenland and Denmark. Our research shows that this is the ice that will persist the longest. So we are hoping to protect and preserve that.”

“To the Arctic” is getting mixed reviews from critics. Although most praise the extraordinary images, several critics say the writing is weak.

Remembering Chuck Brown and Donna Summer

JUNE SIMMS: America lost two major entertainers this week. Chuck Brown was considered the "godfather of go-go" music. Donna Summer was the "queen of disco."

Chuck Brown died Wednesday at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. The musician had developed the blood infection sepsis during treatment for pneumonia. He was seventy-five.

The singer was born in North Carolina but moved to the American capital when he was eight. The city remained his home, and it was where he invented the music known as go-go.


Chuck Brown grew up poor. He was raised by his mother, Lyla Louise Brown. He never knew his father. Chuck stopped going to school soon after the family moved to Washington. He worked instead. He held jobs including shining shoes and selling newspapers.

Chuck Brown got into trouble as a teenager. He spent eight years in a prison near Washington. He started playing guitar while there.


When Chuck Brown gained his freedom he did not look back. He moved back to Washington. He began playing his guitar and singing at events in the area.

In his late twenties, Brown joined some local bands. Within two years he had formed his own. Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers found a new sound that combined funk, jazz and rhythm and blues music. The bouncy beat of go-go music was especially popular in the Washington area. But it influenced music in many other areas.

The nineteen seventy-eight song “Bustin’ Loose” is probably the most widely recognized go-go recording. It was Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers’ biggest hit.


Chuck Brown was considered a hero to many in Washington, DC. The city loves him so much it named a street block for him. Hundreds gathered outside the Howard Theater on Chuck Brown Way Wednesday to remember the musician.


JUNE SIMMS: Disco singer Donna Summer died Thursday. The sixty-three-year-old had battled lung cancer. Christopher Cruise remembers her life and her work.


Donna Summer was known as the Queen of Disco.
Donna Summer was known as the Queen of Disco.
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Donna Summer was born LaDonna Gaines to a large family in Boston, Massachusetts, in nineteen forty-eight. She sang in church as a child. As a teenager she began forming musical groups.

Summer’s voice was clear, high and powerful. Her first big hit came in nineteen seventy-five with “Love to Love You, Baby.” She was in her twenties at the time.


In nineteen seventy-nine Donna Summer had three number-one hits. One of them, “Hot Stuff,” won a Grammy.


Donna Summer was married twice. She had two children. Her last album “Crayons” was released in two thousand eight. Donna Summer won numerous awards during her career including five Grammys. We leave you with Donna Summer performing her hit song “Last Dance.”


JUNE SIMMS: I’m June Simms. This program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. Zulima Palacio provided additional reporting.

Join us again next week for music and more on AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.