It would probably help you know who Van was if you were a teenager when Sputnik was launched or maybe from Texas. Van won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 which was a big deal at the time as Moscow launched the sputnik. He didn't do anything really public, maybe concerts, which I doubt many of us would have attended. It's sad as he was important back in the cold war.
Legendary pianist Van Cliburn dead at 78
By Alan Duke, CNN
(CNN) -- Van Cliburn, the classical pianist honored by a New York ticker-tape parade for winning a major Moscow competition in 1958, died Wednesday after a battle with bone cancer, his publicist said.
"He died peacefully in his Fort Worth, Texas, home ... surrounded by loved ones," spokeswoman Mary Lou Falcone said.
Cliburn, 78, won the International Tchaikovsky Competition months after the Soviet Union stunned Americans with the successful launch of Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth. His victory swelled U.S. pride when it was near a Cold War low.