Twenty-five recordings added to Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry
The Library of Congress has announced the 2020 batch of recordings inducted into the National Recording Registry. The gentle sounds of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; Russ Hodges’ thrilling play-by-play of the National League tiebreaker between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951; the Village People’s international dance anthem, “Y.M.C.A.”; “Cheap Trick at Budokan”; and the original 1964 Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof are among the newest recordings being inducted.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has named these and 20 other recordings as aural treasures worthy of preservation because of their cultural, historical and aesthetic importance to the nation’s recorded sound heritage.
“The National Recording Registry is the evolving playlist of the American soundscape. It reflects moments in history captured through the voices and sounds of the time,” states Hayden. “We received over 800 nominations this year for culturally, historically or aesthetically significant recordings to add to the registry. As genres and formats continue to expand, the Library of Congress is committed to working with our many partners to preserve the sounds that have touched our hearts and shaped our culture.”
Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), is tasked with annually selecting 25 titles that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least ten years old.
The new recordings added to the National Recording Registry bring the total number of titles on the registry to 550, a small part of the Library’s vast recorded-sound collection of nearly three million items.
The sound recordings recently named to the registry showcase works across multiple genres and formats, including radio sportscasts, children’s recordings, classical, field, country, folk, jazz, pop, rap, disco, Latin and Broadway. The spoken-word and musical recordings span over a half century, from 1920 to 2008.
The disco hit “Y.M.C.A.” remains a symbolic recording within American culture.“I had no idea when we wrote Y.M.C.A that it would become one of the most iconic songs in the world, and fixture at almost every wedding, birthday party, bar mitzvah and sporting event. I am glad that the music of Village People has made the world smile for over 40 years with our music. On behalf of my partners Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo, we thank you and are honored to be in such elite company,” shares Victor Willis, lead singer and writer of the lyrics of the track.
The most recent recording added to the registry is Colin Currie’s 2008 Percussion Concerto album, composition by Jennifer Higdon, and the recording from the most contemporary genre is rap icon Dr. Dre’s debut studio album, The Chronic (1992), which solidified his reputation as one of the greatest rappers in music.
Among the selections are the groundbreaking 1920 jazz swing “Whispering” by Paul Whiteman and his orchestra; two conjunto music pioneers who introduced the classic accordion (Narciso Martinez) and bajo sexto (Santiago Almeida) on “La Chicharronera,” released in 1936; Puccini’s “Tosca,” performed by one of the 20th-century’s greatest opera singers, Maria Callas, and released in 1953; Eddy Arnold’s 1965 version of “Make the World Go Away”; the first commercial digital recording of symphonic music in the United States, by Frederick Fennell and the Cleveland Symphonic Winds, from 1978; field recordings of over 50 hours of traditional Afghan music; and “A Feather on the Breath of God,” an award-winning album of sacred vocal music written in the 12th century and performed and recorded by Gothic Voices in 1985.
“This album of Hildegarde von Bingen’s music brought the art of an amazing woman to an entirely new audience, and I feel most fortunate to have been part of the group that recorded it,” states soprano Dame Emma Kirkby.
Several recordings on the list were made by some of America’s phenomenal female changemakers.
Among them are Memphis Minnie, one of the most popular female country blues singers of all time, and her well-known single “Me and My Chauffeur Blues,” recorded in 1941. Memphis Minnie, whose real name is Lizzie Douglass, dominated the male dominated blues genre in the early 1900s and influenced female guitarists for over three decades. “I learned Me And My Chauffeur Blues way back in the 1970s. When I got the opportunity to record the Ramblin’ album for Folkways Records,” said singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. “I knew it had to be on there. I have always felt a deep connection with Memphis Minnie -and always will.”
Selena’s successful 1990 album, Ven Conmigo, made her the first female Tejano singer to have a gold album. March 31st marks 25 years since the singer’s untimely death in Corpus Christi, Texas. Over the past quarter of a century, Selena’s influence on fashion, culture, and of course music has remained impactful on the generations that have come after her.
Tina Turner’s 1984 album Private Dancer served as a personal statement of liberation and solidified her legendary career. “Tina’s innate ability to expand her reach deep into all this new material seems, to this very day, simply unbelievable. Never equaled,” says Rupert Hine, a musician, songwriter and producer on the album. “These songs were populated in such a small handful of days at such high energy as to leave those left in the room thereafter spinning. Something very special was happening right under our feet.”
Maria Schneider’s Grammy Award-winning studio album, Concert in the Garden, recorded in 2004, is also included in the registry this year. Schneider also is the first female jazz composer to have an album added to the National Recording Registry. “I am deeply moved to have this album that was artistically so fulfilling to make, honored in this magnificent way,” shares Schneider. “Crowdfunded in 2003, years before the word ‘crowdfund’ was coined, and as the first release on the prescient label, ArtistShare, Concert in the Garden paved the way to artistic and financial freedom in recording. At the time, I had a sense it was making history, showing how when the internet opens up a two-way, direct and transparent connection between an artist and an audience with no intermediary, the artist can find financial independence and true artistic freedom.”
Two of the additions — Dusty Springfield’s 1969 album Dusty in Memphis and Whitney Houston’s rendition of a Dolly Parton classic, “I Will Always Love You” — have a hidden connection. Houston’s mother, legendary gospel vocalist Cissy Houston, recorded background vocals as a member of The Sweet Inspirations for songs on Dusty in Memphis.
Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Cheap Trick rocked Japan in 1978 with the recording of their live album. “We are honored that our breakout album, Cheap Trick at Budokan, is being added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress,” states the group’s lead guitarist and principal songwriter, Rick Nielsen. “We thank our loyal fans who nominated us, and our favorite Rockford school librarian who got the ball rolling!”
Allan Sherman’s comedy classic from 1963, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, makes the registry this year. “It would have amazed my father, 50-plus years since he wrote it. It’s still something that people care, sing about,” shares Sherman’s son, Robert Sherman.
The original version of “Wichita Lineman,” written by Jimmy Webb and recorded by country music legend Glen Campbell in 1968, also was added. “I’m humbled and, at the same time for Glen, I am extremely proud,” states Webb. “I wish there was some way I could reach him to say, ‘Glen, you know they’re doing this. They are putting our music in a mountain — it will be preserved for all time.” Country music artist Toby Keith shared, “Wichita Lineman is one of the songs I love best. Though written over 50 years ago, It continues to haunt and enthrall us. Jimmy Webb is America’s finest living songwriter and no one can sing a song like the incomparable Glen Campbell.”
Also on the list: a two-sided 1927 recording of Compagnia Columbia’s “Protesta per Sacco e Vanzetti Raoul Romito’s “Sacco e Vanzetti” by Raoul Romito — a response to the 1921 guilty verdicts and death sentences of two Italian immigrants. These Italian-language recordings are examples of Italian American opposition to the arrest, trial, sentencing and executions of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Recordings of several radio broadcasts also were added: an episode of Arch Oboler’s Plays, one of the earliest American old-time horror radio program; the announcement of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy made by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor during the recording of a live performance on November 22, 1963; and Russ Hodges’ call of the 1951 National League tiebreaker between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Giants were down two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the final game of the three-game playoff. Ralph Branca was pitching for the Dodgers, Bobby Thomson came to bat, and Willie Mays was on deck. “Ralph was a good, good pitcher. Didn’t have a real good curve but a good fastball,” the legendary Mays recalls. “And he placed it a lot, so I thought they would do the same thing with Bobby. Walk him and pitch to me because they knew that was my first year.” They didn’t. Instead, Thomson hit a walk-off home run — the “Shot Heard ’Round the World” — and gave the Giants one of the most dramatic victories in baseball history.
Some registry titles have already been preserved by the copyright holders, the artists or other archives. In cases where a selected title has not already been preserved, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the sound recording will be preserved by some entity and available for future generations. This can be either through the Library’s recorded-sound preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, recording studios and independent producers.
The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings. It is home to more than seven million collection items.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.