Sounds of America preserved for posterity

WASHINGTON -- Every year, the Library of Congress designates 25 uniquely American pieces of sound for preservation, because of their importance to our culture and history. The Library made its selections for 2013 on Wednesday.

There are sounds almost everyone on the planet would recognize: U2's seminal 1987 album "The Joshua Tree."

And there are sounds most of us have never heard: George Washington Johnson's 1896 "The Laughing Song," the first hit ever by an African-American singer.

Both have now been digitized and join 398 others on the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.

"The purpose of the registry is to bring national, global attention to the work of preserving sound," says Gene Deanna, who is in charge of the collection. "Much of it is very much at risk."

At risk because the many different materials used to record sound over the past century are decaying.

Gene Deanna CBS News
The selections are not just musical. President Lyndon Johnson's 850 hours of recorded conversations made this year's list -- and showed his blunt style.

"I think you told me and looked me straight in the eye and said, 'I'll report this bill and I'll get it on the floor,' and you didn't do it!" Johnson can be heard exclaiming in one recording.

The 25 recordings chosen each year must be at least 10 years old, and they must also be of historical, cultural or aesthetic importance.

And some, such as the late Jeff Buckley's 1994 recording of "Hallelujah," are all three.