Library of Congress press release announcing the 2007 Registry.
Recordings are listed in chronological order:
Representing a technological breakthrough, this early orchestral broadcast originated in London, traveled by land line to station 5XX in Chelmsford, crossed the Atlantic where it was picked up by an RCA transmitter in Maine, and relayed to stations WJZ in New York and WRC in Washington, D.C. Although the fidelity is low, the recording is significant as a documentation of a technical achievement and a very rare instance of an extant example of a complete radio broadcast of the 1920s. The entire 37-minute broadcast survives on discs in the collections of the University of Maryland’s Library of American Broadcasting.
“Allons a Lafayette,” a lively two-step, was the first commercial recording of traditional Cajun music. Accordionist Joe Falcon and guitarist Cleoma Breaux, his future wife, recorded this song in a New Orleans field session on April 17, 1928, for Columbia Records. Falcon began playing the accordion as a child and soon became a well-known and sought-after dance hall musician, performing throughout Louisiana and other states. His recording career ended soon after Cleoma’s death, but he continued to play and perform with his second wife, Theresa, until his death in 1965.
The gifted American soprano Rosa Ponselle was known for her brilliant portrayal of Norma, Bellini’s Druid priestess who sacrifices herself on the funeral pyre of her Roman lover. A native of Connecticut, Ponselle made her Metropolitan Opera debut at the age of 21, playing Leonora opposite Enrico Caruso in “La Forza del Destino.” Previously, she and her sister Carmela appeared in vaudeville and in New York film theaters. The breadth of range, warmth and beauty of Ponselle’s art represented vocal perfection to many listeners and earned her a long and successful operatic and recording career.
The acknowledged father of modern gospel music, Thomas A. Dorsey made only a handful of gospel recordings himself. Recording first as “Georgia Tom” and “Barrelhouse Tom,” Dorsey was a noted blues artist and composer during the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1932, he dedicated the remainder of his life exclusively to gospel music. In four sessions in 1932 and 1934, Dorsey recorded several songs for Vocalion, including his popular composition, “If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again,” which were released under his own name. His voice, although well-suited to his earlier blues and jazz recordings, was said to have lacked the qualities needed for gospel music and he made no further recordings, concentrating instead on songwriting and publishing. (Thomas Dorsey is not related to big-band leader Tommy Dorsey.)
People who listened to an Art Tatum record often wondered if it featured multiple pianists. Tatum's cascading runs up and down the keyboard, the scales, arpeggios, broken bass lines and two-fisted piano choruses, often taken at blistering speeds, gave this impression. Although contemporary critics found his playing "ornate" and devoid of improvisation, Tatum won his spurs as a jazz pianist. "Sweet Lorraine" is one of his signature tunes. Its relaxed tempo allows one to hear and follow all the typical Tatum action, including the harmonies and dissonances that give any Tatum performance undisputed originality.
The hall closet at 79 Wistful Vista, home of Fibber McGee and Molly (played by Jim and Marion Jordan) was the source of one of radio’s most successful running gags and America’s best-known pile of junk. The effect played on the strength of the sound medium. Frank Pittman, the program’s sound-effects engineer, created the comic catastrophe. The initial click of the door latch tantalizingly opened the routine. Then the thump of several boxes hitting the floor followed and grew to a crescendo of falling bric-a-brac increasing in speed and intensity until the victim was buried under a mountain of pots, pans, fish poles, dumbbells, skates, pie pans and coffee pots. The coda of the avalanche was the tinkling of a little bell. The gag was so effective that crowded, cluttered storage areas in homes are still compared by some to the closet of Fibber McGee.
The Wings Over Jordan choir was founded in 1935 by Rev. Glenn T. Settle, pastor of the Gethsemane Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1937, they began appearing on the radio program, “The Negro Hour,” singing spirituals and other traditional gospel songs on local station WGAR. By 1938, the choir had become nationally known, broadcasting on CBS. The show, renamed “Wings Over Jordan,” featured prominent African-American artists and scholars as well as choir selections. It ran until 1947. Many of these radio programs can be studied and appreciated today because they were pressed as electrical transcriptions and for broadcasts by the Armed Forces Radio Network.
Fiorello LaGuardia, the effervescent mayor who is credited with building modern New York City, regularly took to the radio to communicate directly with the citizens of the city. One of LaGuardia’s most recounted acts as mayor was when he read the comics to the children of the city on WNYC radio during the 1945 newspaper delivery strike. He performed animated, dramatic readings, describing the action in the panels, creating different voices and adding excitement with various sound effects. This benevolent image of LaGuardia was immortalized in the opening scene of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Fiorello!” Surviving recordings of LaGuardia reading the comics are held in the WNYC Collection of New York’s Municipal Archives.
The first recording of this blues standard was made by the Black and White label in Los Angeles on Sept. 14, 1947. Backing up Walker on the session are Lloyd C. Glenn on piano, Bumps Myers on tenor sax and Teddy Buckner playing a muted trumpet. This lineup adds a strong jazz inflection to the recording. The song was reinterpreted with great success by a wide range of blues, rock and jazz recording artists, including Bobby Blue Bland, Lou Rawls, The Allman Brothers and Kenny Burrell.
Prior to the 1948 Democratic Convention, President Truman’s popularity was low and political commentators were sure that Thomas Dewey would easily win the presidential election. One of Truman’s advisors admitted that the president had a “speaking problem” -- he relied too heavily on prepared scripts and his delivery was rushed and occasionally unintelligible. In this speech, Truman worked only from a loose script and, as a result, he found his natural voice. In a down-to-earth and direct manner, which included colloquialisms from his home state of Missouri, the feisty president predicted, “Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make the Republicans like it. Don’t you forget it.” The applause lasted for a full two minutes. Defying many predictions, Truman won re-election.
At a time when many 78-rpm discs were still sold in plain brown sleeves, producer Norman Granz released this limited-edition album set for Mercury Records that included commissioned line drawings by David Stone Martin, large photographs by Gjon Mili and 12 sides of the most innovative jazz of the time. While illustrated album sets were not new at the time, the lavishness of this release was unique. Among the artists represented on the set are Duke Ellington, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Machito and Coleman Hawkins (who plays an unaccompanied tenor sax solo). The presence on the album of Machito’s selection “Tanga” points to the increasing significance of Afro-Cuban jazz in the late 1940s. During that time, Charlie Parker had recorded with Machito and his arranger/trumpeter Mario Bauza. Many other jazz musicians, most notably Dizzy Gillespie, would make important recordings of Afro-Cuban jazz.
An “answer song” to Hank Thompson’s country hit “Wild Side of Life,” which criticized a woman who gave up true love for the lure of the honky-tonk, Kitty Wells’s “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” argues that wayward men are to blame when women stray. Wells’s breakthrough hit established her as a major star and, more importantly, markedly broadened the range of subject matter considered appropriate for female country singers. The recording paved the way for increasingly frank songs by Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and other female country music stars.
The original cast recording of “My Fair Lady” marks a high point in almost every aspect of the collaborations that produced it. It boasts a magnificent score by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe—witty, intelligent, beautiful, and romantic. Brilliantly orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J. Lang, it captures landmark performances by Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway. The recording itself was wonderfully produced under the supervision of prescient producer Goddard Lieberson, who convinced Columbia to underwrite most of the costs of the original production. Columbia’s initial investment of $360,000 generated tens of millions of dollars in profit. The recording established a new relationship between Broadway productions and record companies; the album’s critical success and popularity with the public were unrivaled at the time.
What may be the only recordings of this deeply sacred Navajo healing ceremony were recorded by ethnomusicologist David McAllester in Arizona in the late 1950's. McAllester's recordings of the Shootingway ceremony, one of the most complex in the Navajo ceremonial system, includes the nine day ceremonial event as well as detailed discussions about preparations, procedures, sacred paraphernalia, as well as the reciting of all of the prayers and singing of all of the songs in order. In addition to the Shootingway recordings, McAllester's collection includes eight different versions of the lengthy Blessingway ceremony, several other traditional ceremonies, and many examples of contemporary genres in which he was also interested. The collection is housed at Wesleyan University where it is the core of the World Music Archives.
The debut album of singer, songwriter and guitarist Elizabeth Cotten was released when she was over 60 years old. A self-taught guitarist, her expressive two-finger picking style was enormously influential on folk song guitarists. Cotten was a popular performer during the folk music revival of the 1960s and a major inspiration to many aspiring musicians of the time. Cotten, who wrote “Freight Train” at the age of 12, was inspired by living next to the railroad tracks.
In 1963 the United States Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force bands and choruses were engaged (by special permission) to make albums of American music which would be sold to help fund the National Cultural Center (later the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). The Marine Band had just returned from an extensive tour of the U.S. and was in prime form. The resulting recording by Herman Diaz, Jr., the legendary producer for RCA Victor, is considered by many experts as one of the finest recordings in band history because of the incredible sound quality of the recording.
The last of Roy Orbison’s string of hits for Monument records, “Oh, Pretty Woman” was his most enduring recording. Orbison and co-writer Bill Dees tapped out the initial rhythm of the song while sitting at Orbison’s kitchen table. In the recorded version, this became the infectious and well-known opening guitar riff and propulsive drum beat. Artists as varied as Al Green, John Mayall and Van Halen have performed the song, and 2 Live Crew sampled the opening on their 1989 album, “As Clean as They Wanna Be.” That appropriation, made without authorization, led to a U. S. Supreme Court case (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.), which ruled in 1994 that the commercial song parody qualified as fair use under Section 107 of the U. S. copyright law.
William “Smokey” Robinson wrote, produced and performed some of the sweetest, most poetic and enduring love songs in rhythm and blues history. “Tracks of My Tears” is highlighted by Robinson’s velvety high tenor voice and his heartbreaking lyrics. It captures the peak of Robinson’s talent. His smooth voice conveys the passion and pain required to maintain a false, happy exterior after a romantic breakup. He heightens the effect when he sweeps into his remarkable falsetto. The recording won numerous awards and is considered to be among the best recordings by the Miracles. “Tracks of My Tears” further emphasized the influence of Detroit soul on American popular music, a position attained by the recordings produced by Motown Records.
Performer and educator Ella Jenkins has been leading children on musical journeys around the world for more than 50 years. Her call-and-response songs, and gentle soothing voice, encourage children to join in and sing along, overcoming any shyness or reluctance they might have. Singing with Ella, children have learned songs from a variety of cultures and in many languages. Her vast repertoire of songs includes nursery rhymes, folk songs and chants as well as her own original songs. In keeping with the policy of its record label, Folkways, “You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song” has remained in print since it was first published in 1966.
The first recording in the celebrated Nonesuch Explorer Series, “Music from the Morning of the World” was one of the first attempts to offer “international music” and, in particular, ethnic field recordings as entertainment for commercial recording listeners. The series exposed listeners to new musical idioms and non-Western classical music, and set high standards for recording quality and accompanying written documentation. “Music from the Morning of the World” provided many listeners with their first exposure to Balinese gamelan music and the unforgettably compelling “monkey chant.”
In “For the Roses,” Joni Mitchell took the confessional lyrics of her critically-acclaimed “Blue” album and infused them with touches of jazz. The result is a mélange of folk, rock, jazz and country that retains the heartfelt tone of her earlier work, but presents it on a broader canvas. While Mitchell later delved more deeply into jazz, “For the Roses” remains the album in which all the elements of her creative palette are in perfect balance.
“Headhunters” is a pivotal work of Herbie Hancock’s career. It was his first true fusion recording. Possessing all the sensibilities of jazz, but with R&B and funk soul rhythms, “Headhunters” had a mass appeal that made it the greatest-selling jazz album in history at the time of its release. The recording is notable for its use of an extremely wide range of instruments, including electric synthesizers which brought that new instrument to the forefront of jazz for the first time. Hancock’s experiments caused controversy among jazz purists, many of whom at the time belittled it as “pop.” “Headhunters” proved to be influential not only to jazz, but also to funk, soul and hip-hop.
This collection of over 1,000 radio broadcast recordings, the majority penned by Ronald Reagan himself, documents the development of his political vision in the years immediately preceding his election to the White House. In the broadcasts Reagan sounded what would become the familiar themes of his presidency: reduction of government spending, tax cuts, supply-side economics and anti-communism. These radio “chats” did not focus on specific policy prescriptions, as much as outlining a conservative governing philosophy, much of which remains with the Republican Party to this day. Also showcased is Reagan’s conversational, folksy rhetorical style, which added measurably to his public appeal.
Never released to the public, this disc was prepared to introduce aurally our planet to any alien intelligence that might encounter the Voyager spacecraft many millions of years in the future. The disc contains encoded photographs, spoken messages, music and sounds. There are greetings delivered from around the world in 55 languages. The sound essay includes life sounds (EEGs and EKGs), birds, elephants, whales, volcanoes, rain and a baby. The 90 minutes of music features selections from ragas, Navajo Indian chants, Java court gamelan, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, a Peruvian Woman’s Wedding song, and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
Michael Jackson’s second album with legendary producer Quincy Jones attained stratospheric national and international success. Featuring outstanding performances by Paul McCartney on “The Girl is Mine” and a metallic Eddie Van Halen guitar lead on “Beat It,” the album’s influence on the record industry and subsequent popular music is immeasurable. The album also includes the strong disco-inflected “Billie Jean” and the compelling title track “Thriller,” featuring an eerie voice-over by Vincent Price. Jackson’s keen pop sensibilities, performances by a wide range of talented musicians and Quincy Jones’ expert production all contributed to making “Thriller” the best-selling all time.