The selections span from 1918 to 1980 and represent nearly every musical and recording category.
Recordings by Will Rogers, Jimmie Davis and President Dwight D. Eisenhower capture part of the political climate of their eras. In 1931, Rogers’ radio broadcast at a low point in the Great Depression included a folksy chat with President Herbert Hoover to kick off a nationwide unemployment relief campaign. Davis’ 1940 recording of “You Are My Sunshine” became his election campaign theme song while running for governor of Louisiana. It became one of the most popular country songs of all time and the state song of Louisiana in 1977.
Eisenhower’s voice was carried in a prerecorded message in 1958 carried by the first communications satellite launched on a U.S. rocket. Eisenhower’s message of peace to the world transmitted from space was touted as a victory in the space race after the Soviet Union launched a satellite the year before.
Van Cliburn’s Cold War piano performance in Moscow when he won the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition at 23 also was selected. At the time in 1958, Time magazine noted his appearance and tour of the Soviet Union “has had more favorable impact on more Russians than any U.S. export of word or deed since World War II.”
Earlier this year, the Library of Congress unveiled an extensive plan to help libraries and archives nationwide preserve recorded sound to guard against losing historic recordings. It’s proposing 32 recommendations to Congress on actions to preserve endangered audio.
For his part, Garfunkel said he’s still working, writing poems, putting together a book and singing. He said he’s working to regain his voice after having vocal troubles. And he said he’s ramping up to get back to the stage and wouldn’t rule out a reunion with Simon when the time is right.
“Who knows what the future brings?” Garfunkel said. “This is my old buddy, the first friend I made in life.”
Online: Library of Congress