Native American cultures are alive and well today, thriving and evolving within cities, rural communities, tribes, and nations across the United States. The online collections of the Library of Congress contain a variety of primary sources that document daily life and creative works in diverse Native American communities from the late twentieth century to the present day.
As our fourth and final blog post this fall related to the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, it seems appropriate that its theme focus on the concept of legacy. What a singer-songwriter leaves behind, from recordings, to manuscripts, to lyrics, can be thought of as their tangible legacies. The impact of his or her work, the connections listeners and concert goers make to the music, and the emotions the music inspires--these are some of the intangible legacies.
In July 2014, when Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced that Billy Joel would receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, he described Joel as being, "a storyteller of the highest order."
Talented songwriters can be great storytellers! Not only do their songs often include elements of a short story, but they do so in ways that listeners can easily imagine and relate to.
Billy Joel is the sixth Gershwin Prize Honoree, and all previous winners were also interviewed upon receipt of their awards. In each case, they too, spoke of individuals--parents, other musicians, and teachers--who inspired them or in some way influenced them.
One of the most powerful effects of primary sources is their ability to complicate common understandings of history. As the raw materials of history, original documents are able to bring to light little-known details or neglected episodes that add complexity to oversimplified accounts.