The music industry honored the Library of Congress with a special Grammy Award on Wednesday night for its work over the past decade to preserve historic audio recordings, along with honors for Jennifer Hudson.
The Recording Academy presented its Grammys on the Hill Award to the library at an event in Washington, featuring appearances by producer Clive Davis, singer Yolanda Adams and others.
The group honored Hudson with a Recording Artist Coalition Award for her charity work and saluted York Community High School near Chicago for its outstanding music program.
Hudson said being recognized for her charitable work stands apart from all her other awards.
“It makes it the most prestigious award to be acknowledged for trying to make a difference,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s OK to be a celebrity, but the things that matter are when you can change someone’s life or help someone.”
Librarian of Congress James Billington said he was delighted that the library’s preservation work was being honored – but he never expected to win any kind of Grammy.
“I can’t even carry a tune, so the thought that I’m being awarded a Grammy will amaze everyone who moves slightly away from me whenever I start singing,” he told The Associated Press.
Billington said preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage is one of the most neglected issues.
“We are kind of a throw-away society,” he said. “We’re tremendous at creating things in this country with our freedoms and our richness and variety of forms of cultural expression, but we seem to think things will last forever.”
Songwriter Kara DioGuardi said the library’s preservation work is critical. “These are songs that are going to be played for generations to come,” she said.
Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said hundreds of musicians will visit Capitol Hill on Thursday to urge lawmakers to protect copyrights for the creators of music and ensure they get paid for their work in the digital age.
California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority whip, joined Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer to show support Wednesday night. The guiding premise for intellectual property protections, Hoyer said, is “thou shalt not steal.”
The Grammys on the Hill Awards are meant to connect the music industry with the world of policy and politics in Washington.
Daryl Friedman, the Recording Academy’s chief lobbyist in Washington, said the library’s National Recording Registry goes beyond its practical purpose of ensuring that recordings are preserved for generations to come.
“It raises the profile of great American recordings from all genres, even spoken word, great speeches, great music,” he said.
The Grammy Foundation pushed for legislation in Congress more than 10 years ago to create the preservation program at the library. So far, 375 audio recordings have been preserved through the program for their historic, artistic or cultural significance. This year’s inductees include Simon and Garfunkel’s album “Sounds of Silence” and Chubby Checker’s dance hit “The Twist.”
The recordings are housed at the library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation built partially in a bunker in Culpeper, Va. The facility houses more than 6 million items, including about 3.5 million sound recordings.
Past honorees have included Garth Brooks, Don Henley, Vice President Joe Biden, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and California Rep. Darrell Issa for supporting music policies.
Friedman said Hudson has stood out for supporting her own charities, as well as the Grammy Foundation and its work.
“She is an outstanding vocalist, of course, an amazing actress, but also really a committed philanthropist,” he said. “It’s just her generous heart, her spirit and her talent.”
After accepting her award, Hudson performed “Hallelujah” and applauded efforts in Washington to keep music education alive in schools. She said that made all the difference for her, long before “American Idol” and her Oscar and Grammy Award.
“I didn’t want to go to any class but music, and so because of music, I had perfect attendance every year,” she told the crowd.
Producer Clive Davis, who presented the award to Hudson, said he wanted people to know about her heart and her talent. Hudson is still a new artist, and her upcoming third studio album will be special, Davis said.
“I think it’s going to break her through worldwide,” he said.