I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Shirley Griffith with the VOA Special English Program,PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about Burl Ives. He won a Grammyaward for his music and an Oscar for his acting.
In nineteen-fifty-eight Burl Ives appeared in the western movie,"The Big Country." He played the part of a man who controls hugeamounts of land. In the movie, he is not a nice man. He is mean andrespects nothing but power. He causes problems for the people aroundhim.
Burl Ives won the Academy Award Oscar that year as the BestSupporting Actor. People who knew him well say it was really greatacting. That is because Burl Ives was one of the nicest men they hadever met. Burl Ives was not mean. He was a large, friendly man wholoved to make people happy with his acting and especially with hismusic.
Except when he was acting in a movie, Burl Ives always smiled. Heloved making music and wanted other people to enjoy the music hemade. If you listen closely to his voice, you can tell he wassmiling when he sang his songs. Listen now as he sings "Blue TailFly."
((CUT ONE: "BLUE TAIL FLY"))
Burl Ives was one of seven children. He was born in June,nineteen-oh-nine in the middle western state of Illinois. MisterIves said he began learning songs as a very little boy. Hisgrandmother taught him to sing while she smoked tobacco in a pipe.
As a young man, Burl wanted to teach history. So, he beganattending Eastern Illinois Teacher's College innineteen-twenty-seven. But he was not a very good student.
The president of the college told him one day he would never be avery good teacher. He said, "Burl why don't you look around alittle. You are always singing, why don't you try that."
Burl Ives said he did not even go back to his room to pick up hisclothing. He just went down the road and never looked back. He tookhis guitar and began traveling around the United States.
He worked at many jobs. He also learned many songs. Songs fromcowboys. Songs from farmers. Songs from people who worked on ships.Songs from people who worked in mines. He learned songs from anyonewho would teach him something new.
Burl Ives went to New York City in the early nineteen-thirties.He was admitted to the famous Julliard School of Music to study. Healso got jobs in New York. He sang in small eating and drinkingplaces. He sang the songs he had learned. By nineteen-thirty-eighthe was performing in theaters. He was singing on the radio and waspart of a group called The Weavers, which became famous.
He began recording the folk songs he had learned. Critics said noone ever sung them better. He recorded "Blue Tail Fly" and made itfamous. Another of his songs that became very popular was called,"Big Rock Candy Mountain." The song is a funny story about ahomeless man who tells of a place where you do not have to work,where food is free and tobacco is free. It is a place called BigRock Candy Mountain.
((CUT TWO: "BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN."))
Songs like "Big Rock Candy Mountain" could be heard on the BurlIves radio program each week. The radio program was called "TheWayfaring Stranger." It was first broadcast in nineteen-forty. BurlIves had recorded many songs but he did not have a major hit untilnineteen-forty-seven. That song was "Lavender Blue."
((CUT THREE: "LAVENDER BLUE"))
During the nineteen fifties, Burl Ives recorded hundreds of songson many albums. He also began serious movie work. He had played thepart of Big Daddy in the famous Tennessee Williams play "Cat on aHot Tin Roof" on Broadway in New York City.
He was asked to play the same part in the movie of the same name.Movie experts praised his powerful performance as "Big Daddy." Themovie was released in nineteen-fifty-eight, the same year he won hisOscar for the movie "Big Country."
In nineteen-sixty-one, Burl Ives recorded a song that becameanother major hit. It made the top ten list of hit songs in countryand western and popular music. The song was "Little Bitty Tear."
((CUT FOUR: "LITTLE BITTY TEAR"))
"Little Bitty Tear" was followed a year later with another hit,"It's Just My Funny Way of Laughin." The song earned Burl Ives aGrammy Award that year for Best Country and Western Recording.
Burl Ives never seemed to slow down. He was always extremelybusy. He had another hit record in nineteen-sixty-four with hisrecording of " Pearly Shells." And, while he was recording songs foradults, he was also recording songs for children.
It is his songs for children that will perhaps keep Burl Ives'memory alive for many years to come. His most famous are twoChristmas songs, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer," and "Frosty theSnowman."
These songs were used in cartoon movies first shown on Americantelevision in the nineteen-fifties and sixties. Burl Ives providedthe voice of some of the animals and people. He also sang most ofthe songs. A snowman in one of the movies even looks like Burl Ives.
Both of these moves are stillshown on television during the Christmas holiday season each year.They have become Christmas traditions. Here, Burl Ives sings"Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer."
((CUT FIVE: "RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED RAINDEER"))
Burl Ives never really retired. He moved to the northwesternstate of Washington in his last years, but he continued to sing aslong as he could. He died of cancer on April Fourteenth,nineteen-ninety-five. He was eighty-five years old.
((CUT SIX: "IT'S JUST MY FUNNY WAY OF LAUGHIN'"))
This VOA Special English program was written by Paul Thompson anddirected by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for PEOPLE INAMERICA program on the Voice of America.