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Saturday 23 Aug 2014

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America Season: programmes

Melvyn Bragg presents John Steinbaeck – Voice Of America

John Steinbeck – Voice Of America (1x60-minute)

This one-hour documentary, produced by Mentorn Media for BBC Four, follows Melvyn Bragg as he travels from Oklahoma to California to examine the enduring legacy of the Nobel Prize-winning author, John Steinbeck.

In novels such as The Grapes Of Wrath, Of Mice And Men, and Cannery Row, Steinbeck gave voices to ordinary people who were battling poverty, drought and homelessness. Melvyn Bragg assesses why the work of one his favourite authors remains relevant in today's America, taking a fresh approach to John Steinbeck, his work and in particular Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes Of Wrath, one of the epic American novels of the twentieth century.

Bragg visits the site of the 1930s dust bowl in Oklahoma; the California orchards where bloody political battles were fought between migrant labourers and growers; and the Monterey coastline where Steinbeck developed his ideas on ecology, and makes a case for Steinbeck as one of the great voices of American literature.

Prince – A Purple Reign

Prince – A Purple Reign; Public Enemy – Prophets Of Rage; Lionel Richie – Dancing On The Ceiling; Janet Jackson – Taking Control (4x60-minutes)

These four documentaries profile four legendary artists – Prince, Public Enemy, Janet Jackson and Lionel Richie – whose careers went stratospheric during the 1980s. After the successes of soul, funk and disco in the previous two decades, the Eighties was a defining point for black American pop music. Young, talented African-Americans took centre stage, becoming some of the biggest selling artists of all time.

However, this success wasn't straightforward. MTV had launched in 1981 and became increasingly influential in promoting new music. The channel was initially a home to white rock acts and it was only after Michael Jackson's dazzling Billie Jean video and a threat by his label to withdraw all their other artists unless MTV played it, that things changed.

Following this breakthrough, others followed and by the end of the decade African-American performers were the dominant force in popular music, which continues today.

This series features critical biographies of these talented artists with the stories of how they achieved worldwide success and ultimately came to influence some of the biggest music stars of today.

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