For more information on the 2002 Registry choices, please read the press release.
Note: this is a national list and many of the items listed are housed in collections across the country. The Library of Congress does not currently hold copies of all the recordings listed.
Recordings are listed in chronological order:
A trio of cylinders selected by Edison contemporaries to represent the birth of commercial sound recordingas an industry, as a practical technology, and as a means to preserve music and spoken word.
Fewkes's cylinder recordings, made in Calais, Maine, are considered to be the first ethnographic recordings made "in the field," as well as the first recordings of Native American music.
The first recording of America's favorite march. "The Stars and Stripes Forever!," John Philip Sousa's most famous march, was recorded by the company of the inventor of the 78-rpm gramophone disc, Emile Berliner.
In the early 1900s, Lionel Mapleson set up a phonograph in the New York City Metropolitan Opera House to record excerpts of 'live' performances there. These cylinders preserve a special window on the spontaneous artistry of this era and are the only known extant recordings of some performers, including Jean de Reszke.
Scott Joplin is regarded as the pre-eminent composer of ragtime compositions. Joplin himself performed some of these rags for piano roll sales. These rolls represent the way rags were originally listened to and enjoyed on home player pianos. They are outstanding examples of a less-familiar, nearly-obsolete, sound recording format.
In 1906, Booker T. Washington recreated his controversial 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech in which he promotes inter-racial cooperation, as well as African-American self-reliance. This address drew criticism from other black leaders who interpreted it as giving in to segregation.
Tenor Enrico Caruso was probably the most popular recording artist of his time. His recording of this signature aria by Leoncavallo was a best-selling recording.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers established the black spiritual in the history of American music. They were also the first to introduce these songs to white audiences through concert tours and recordings. "Swing Low" is their first commercial recording.
These Trinidadian instrumental musicians were recorded in New York City during a tour in 1912. Lovey's String Band exemplifies a pre-jazz "hot" style common in the Caribbean at that time.
This extraordinarily popular comic baseball recitation (poem) is read by the vaudevillian, DeWolf Hopper. Hopper reportedly recited this poem over 10,000 times in performance.
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band was the first jazz band to make a commercial recording. This all-white New Orleans-style group from Chicago featured cornetist Nick LaRocca. While not the best ensemble of its day, the first recordings of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band initiated a craze for the new art form, jazz.
Eck Robertson, master old-time fiddler, is recognized as the first performer to make country music recordings. This Victor disc features Robertson as a soloist on "Sallie Gooden," and in a duet with fiddler Henry Gilliland performing "Arkansas Traveler" on the flip side.
Down-Hearted Blues is the best-selling and enduring first release by the "Empress of the Blues." Bessie Smith first recorded in 1923, launching a blues career that would have no parallel during the classic blues era. She recorded more than 150 songs over her 14-year recording career.
The first recording made of this classic American composition featured the composer at the piano and Paul Whiteman conducting. The recording was made several months after the 1924 Aeolian Hall premiere of the work.
Louis Armstrong was jazz's first great soloist, and among American music's most important and influential figures. These sessions, and his solos in particular, set a standard musicians still strive to equal in their beauty and innovation.
Victor Records, searching for performers of "hillbilly" music, recorded performances by 19 local musicians in Bristol, Tennessee, in 1927. The amazing display of talent yielded such future country music recording stars as the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and Ernest Stoneman. The sessions are considered a watershed moment in the history of country music.
Harvard Vocarium was a record label produced by the Harvard University Poetry Room in the 1930s and 1940s, which featured authors reading their own works. Among the writers recorded were T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Tennessee Williams.
The Highlander Center has played important roles in many political movements. These discs document Zilphia Horton, who introduced "We Will Overcome" to the Southern Labor Movement, and later, to Pete Seeger. The collection also includes recordings of activists Myles Horton, Rosa Parks, Esau Jenkins, and Septima Clark.
Experimental recordings made by the Bell Laboratories in early 1930s resulted in the first high-fidelity, stereo recordings. Among them were recordings which feature this great American orchestra under its renowned, and controversial, conductor, Leopold Stokowski.
The Fireside Chats were an influential series of radio broadcasts in which Roosevelt utilized the media to present his programs directly to the public and thereby redefined the relationship between the president and the American people.
This series of 30 discs was published by Henry Cowell as part of his ground-breaking efforts to promote avant-garde music in the United States. The discs were issued in conjunction with his scholarly journal, New Music, and include works by Walter Piston, Otto Luening, Edgar Varese, Henry Cowell, and Charles Ives.
An emotional, never-to-be-forgotten, moment of news broadcasting in which a tragedy is witnessed and spontaneously reported. This actuality recording was the first exception to network radio's ban on the airing of recordings.
The first recorded radio performance of this famous Abbott and Costello routine comes from radio's Kate Smith Hour.
The Mercury Theater's finely-crafted radio drama about Martian invaders is one of the best-written and produced works in its genre. Its realistic format caused considerable alarm to many listeners across the U.S.
This is the original version of Irving Berlin's classic performed by Kate Smith on her radio program. Her rendition still retains a potent sense of patriotism, as was witnessed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 tragedies.
The recording of this controversial musical about labor unions was the first complete recording of a Broadway show. The work was originally intended for production by the Federal Theater Project.
John Lomax, honorary consultant and curator for the fledgling Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, recorded hundreds of performances of ballads, blues, cowboy songs, field hollers, spirituals, and work songs in nine southern states. Many ethnomusicologists consider the recordings made on this field trip to be among the most important in this genre.
Grand Ole Opry. First network radio broadcast. Uncle Dave Macon, Roy Acuff, and others. (1939)
The searing song, "Strange Fruit," is arguably Billie Holiday's most influential recording, bringing the topic of lynching to the commercial record-buying public.
Duke Ellington is considered one of the greatest composers and band leaders of the 20th century. His band's recordings for RCA Victor while bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor sax player Ben Webster were among its personnel are thought by many to represent a period of unparalleled creativity. Billy Strayhorn, arranger and composer, and Duke's son, Mercer, contributed much to these recordings.
Hailed by critics as a "landmark performance," this recorded performance at the Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium captures the electric, live-performance chemistry between composer/pianist Bela Bartok and his champion and fellow countryman, violinist Joseph Szigeti. They perform works by Bartok, Beethoven, and Debussy.
The first U.S. recording of this 20th century masterwork as conducted by the composer is considered by many to be the best recording of Stravinsky conducting the work.
The original 1942 commercial recording by Bing Crosby. Crosby's 1947 rendition of this Irving Berlin classic is one of the best-selling records ever made, but it is actually a remake of the 1942 version. That Decca Records recording was also very popular but its master was lost or damaged. The 1947 version was recorded under John Scott Trotter, the same music director as the original, and utilized the same arrangement, but Crosby's reading is slightly different than the 1942 recording.
Woody Guthrie, a legendary folk poet, had a strong influence on the folksong revival of the 1950s. He wrote or adapted over 1,000 songs, including the classic, "This Land." Guthrie intended the song to be a grassroots response to "God Bless America."
General Eisenhower's radio address to European citizens on the day of the Allied Normandy Invasion, announces the invasion, requests their support, and promises liberation.
Charlie Parker (alto sax) was another of jazz's premier improvising soloists. "Koko" signaled the birth of a new era in jazzbebop. This session for Savoy Records featured Charlie Parker with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.
This recording of the bluegrass standard by the composer and "Father of Bluegrass," mandolinist Bill Monroe, is the earliest recording of that standard. "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was recorded by many other musicians, including Elvis Presley on the Sun Sessions. Presley's version was such a hit that Monroe later revised his performances to reflect Presley's influence.
This exciting performance introduced over-dubbing recording techniques to the public and paved the way for studio production techniques still in use today.
The group of recordings made at Sun Studios launched the career of Elvis Presley, and helped to create the rock 'n' roll era. They were the singer's first recordings and remain his most widely respected. The recordings include Elvis's rendition of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky."
Frank Sinatra's Capitol Records "concept" album is filled with American song standards and rich arrangements by Nelson Riddle. This album demonstrated a mature and confident Sinatra who transcended his earlier popularity as a favorite of bobbysoxers.
Bandleader/instrumentalist Tito Puente is considered to be a Renaissance man of Latin music. The best of New York City's 1950s Latin jazz scene is heard on this landmark album of 1958.
Many consider this recording to be one of the most important jazz recordings of any era. Miles Davis, trumpeter and composer, and a superb ensemble of musicians, including John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, and Bill Evans, created a highly-influential modal jazz masterpiece which was a best-selling album.
This rhythm and blues hit combined the call-and response structure of the church with the sexually charged message of the blues. A highly acclaimed singer, pianist, arranger, and songwriter, Charles's synthesis of soul, R&B, country, and pop makes him one of the most influential musical figures of the 20th century.
Dr. King's address is considered a landmark event in the African-American struggle against discrimination and racism.
This album is considered by some to be the most important collection of original songs to be issued in the 1960s. It includes "Blowin' in the Wind," the popular and powerful protest anthem of the 1960s. Dylan's lyrics, music, and performing style make him a highly-influential figure in the urban folk-music revival of the 1960s and 1970s, whose work remains significant and influential.
Like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin successfully integrated elements of her gospel background with pop tunes to create numerous gold records, including the perennial hit, "Respect," composed by Otis Redding.
Babbitt's Philomel was commissioned by the Ford Foundation for the noted soprano Bethany Beardslee. It is an outstanding example of an early synthesizer composition.
Composer of many enduring gospel classics, Thomas A. Dorsey is considered to be the Father of Gospel Music. The recording features Dorsey's account of his life, as well as contemporary performances of his greatest works.
This collection of tapes in the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation Archive contains an outstanding array of interviews, live concert recordings, and radio broadcasts of New Orleans musicians including Clifton Chenier, Professor Longhair, Queen Ida, and others, from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five was a pivotal group in the early days of rap, developing crucial aspects of the genre. Their 1982 hit, "The Message," is significant because of its focus on urban social issuesa course followed by many later rappers.