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:
In late 1853 or early 1854, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville captured the first recorded sounds by etching onto blackened glass plates the movements of a boar’s-bristle stylus, vibrating in sympathy with a guitar and a human voice. Later, Scott made recordings on paper wrapped around a drum. The resulting "phonautograms" proved crucial to the development of recorded sound. Scott was interested solely in the visible tracings of sound waves in order to study acoustics and did not record with the intention of playing back or listening to his recordings. Nevertheless, in 2008, researchers from the First Sounds group, using contemporary audio technology (developed with the support of several institutions, including the Library of Congress and the National Recording Preservation Board) were able to play back Scott’s recordings for the very first time. Selected for the 2010 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 92KB]
Few, if any, sound recordings can lay claim to as many “firsts” as the small, mangled artifact of a failed business venture discovered in 1967 in the desk of an assistant to Thomas Edison. This cylinder recording, only 5/8-inches wide, represents the foundations of many aspects of recording history. It was created in 1888 by a short-lived Edison company established to make talking dolls for children, and it is the only surviving example from the experimental stage of the Edison dolls production when the cylinders were made of tin. As such, this recording of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” as sung by an anonymous Edison employee, is the earliest known commercial sound recording in existence. It is also the first children’s recording and, quite possibly, the first recording to be made by someone who was paid to perform for a sound recording. Due to its poor condition, the recording was considered unplayable until 2011 when its surface was scanned in three dimensions using digital mapping tools created at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and developed in collaboration with the Library of Congress. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Edison exhibition recordings (group of three cylinders): "Around the World on the Phonograph"; "The Pattison Waltz"; and "Fifth Regiment March." (1888-1889)
A trio of cylinders selected by Edison contemporaries to represent the birth of commercial sound recording--as an industry, as a practical technology, and as a means to preserve music and spoken word. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Jesse Walter Fewkes field recordings of the Passamaquoddy Indians. (1890)
Fewkes' cylinder recordings, 30 in total and made in Calais, Maine, are considered to be the first ethnographic recordings made produced "in the field," as well as the first recordings of Native American music. The cylinders are held by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"The Lord's Prayer" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Emile Berliner recordings. (c. 1890)
Emile Berliner, the inventor of the microphone and founder of the first disc record company, lived and worked in Washington, D.C. A contemporary of Thomas Edison, Berliner believed that the wax cylinder developed by Edison and his partners was too soft and fragile for making a permanent recording. Hence, he developed the first process for mass-production of disc recordings. These are two of his early recordings. Selected for the 2003 registry.
George W. Johnson was the first African American to make commercial records; he began in 1890. Born near Wheatland, Virginia, Johnson made his living as a street singer during the 1870s, busking in New York City. “The Laughing Song” was Johnson’s most famous and long-lived number. This familiar sounding and uncomplicated tune was sung by Johnson in a down-home, gruff baritone and completed with his infectious laughter, all remarkably free of the caricature and forced dialect that marked most African American-themed material of the period. “Laughing Song” was tremendously successful, with versions released in the US and Europe. With its ragtime-imbued accompaniment, its stature is inestimable: here is perhaps the most popular recording of the 1890s, and probably the first “hit” sung by an African American. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"Stars and Stripes Forever." Military Band. (1897)
The first recording of America's favorite march. "The Stars and Stripes Forever," John Philip Sousa's most famous composition, was recorded by the company of the inventor of the 78-rpm gramophone disc, Emile Berliner, for his company Berliner Gramophone. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Victor Herbert's 1898 operetta, "The Fortune Teller," was the composer's first popular success for the stage. The Berliner Gramophone Company captured bass Eugene Cowles' performance of one of the operetta's hits, "Gypsy Love Song," on what was one of the very first "original cast recordings." Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Honolulu Cake Walk." Vess Ossman. (c. 1900)
During the era of ragtime music's greatest popularity -- the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- the syncopated music was typically recorded by bands, orchestras, or small ensembles, or accordion, xylophone, or banjo soloists. Vess Ossman, called "The Banjo King," was the one of the most prolific recording artists of that time. His "Honolulu Cake Walk" is a prime example of recorded ragtime banjo. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Ragtime compositions on piano rolls. Scott Joplin. (1900s)
Scott Joplin is today 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 these compositions were originally listened to and enjoyed--on home player pianos. They are outstanding examples of a less-familiar, now nearly-obsolete sound recording format. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Lionel Mapleson cylinder recordings of the Metropolitan Opera. (1900-1903)
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
This vaudeville and musical theater duo, among America's first African-American recording artists, recorded many sides for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901. But as effective as the comic duo were on record, George Walker disliked recording and made only one other disc. Bert Williams, however, had a very successful recording career, which included two versions of his signature song, "Nobody," before his death in 1922. The Victor discs are quite rare. Two of them, "The Fortune Telling Man " (Victor 1083) and "The Ghost of a Coon" (Victor 998), are missing from any known collection. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Canzone del Porter" from "Martha." Edouard de Reszke. (1903)
Representative of the Columbia Grand Opera Series. Columbia Records' 1903 "celebrity" series of discs featured seven Metropolitan Opera stars who were considered some of the most significant singers of the period. Perhaps of greatest historical significance within the Series are the three recordings made by bass Edouard de Reszke. They are his only known published recordings, made when he was approaching the end of his performing career. Other performers included in the Series are Giuseppe Campanari, baritone; Marcella Sembrich, soprano; Suzanne Adams, soprano; Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto; Antonio Scotti, baritone; and Charles Gilbert, baritone. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Cal Stewart was among the most prolific and popular recording artists of the first 20 years of commercial recording. His “Uncle Josh” monologues offer humorous commentary on American life at the turn of the 20th century. His “rural comedy” describes life in the imaginary New England village of Pumpkin Center, painting humorous pictures of Uncle Josh’s encounters with new technologies as well as pointing out the comic contrasts between agrarian and urban life in America. Stewart’s influence can be heard in the comedy of Will Rogers, in Fred Allen’s character, Titus Moody, and in Garrison Keillor’s stories about Lake Wobegon. “Uncle Josh and the Insurance Company” is especially notable as the first recording of the humorous folk tale and urban legend “Barrel of Bricks.” Selected for the 2006 registry.
Booker T. Washington's 1895 Atlanta Exposition Speech. (1906 recreation)
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 65KB]
Billy Murray was one of the most popular recording artists in the U.S. in the acoustic recording era. His distinct tenor voice was featured on hundreds of records issued by Victor, Columbia, Edison, and other labels. Some of Murray's best-loved and most popular recordings were of George M. Cohan's songs. "You're a Grand Old Rag" was the original title of this recording and Cohan's song "You're a Grand Old Flag." Despite the song's clear patriotic message, "rag" was considered by many to be an undignified and inappropriate way to refer to the American flag. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Tenor Enrico Caruso was probably the most popular recording artist of his time. His recording of this signature aria from Pagliacci by Leoncavallo was a bestseller. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Frances Densmore Chippewa/Ojibwe Cylinder Collection. (1907-1910)
Frances Densmore's Chippewa recordings, a three-hundred cylinder sub-set of the ethnomusicologist's thirty-year collecting effort, are some of the earliest recordings she made. Her collections, housed at the Library of Congress, document Native American traditions and performances, many of which have since been lost even within their native communities. Selected for the 2003 registry.
This recording captured a gifted monologist at his best and became one of the most popular performances on early records. The “No News” monologue, with its roots in oral tradition, was one of vaudeville’s most famous and often-copied routines. The monologue unfolds as a piecemeal report by a servant to his master who recently returned from a trip, assuring him that there is nothing new to report from home, except that his dog has died. Nat M. Wills displays masterful comic timing as he slowly reveals, in a escalating hierarchy of domestic disasters, the events that led up to the dog’s demise. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Edward Meeker. (1908)
This popular song has become an unofficial national anthem of America’s national pastime. It was composed in 1908 and was recorded by all three of the major U.S. record companies, Victor, Columbia and Edison. Few copies of these recordings are now extant, which may indicate that initially the song was not as popular as it was to become later. Comic vocalist Edward Meeker, whose duties for Edison included announcing the titles and artists on hundreds of cylinders, sings on this Edison recording. Meeker delivers the song in his stentorian, but good-natured baritone, including both verses, which remind us that the song is about a baseball-loving woman. Selected for the 2010 registry.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers helped establish 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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 206KB]
"Some of These Days." Sophie Tucker. (1911)
Vaudeville singer and comedienne Sophie Tucker first recorded her signature song for the Edison company on cylinder. It was the beginning of a recording career that extended nearly 50 years. This Sheldon Brooks song was an ideal vehicle for the earthy star known as "the Last of the Red-Hot Mamas." Selected for the 2004 registry.
Recorded on 148 wax cylinders between September 1911 and April 1914, this is the largest collection of the extinct Yahi language. Ishi, the last surviving member of the Northern California Yahi tribe and the last speaker of its language, sings traditional Yahi songs and tells stories, including the story of "Wood Duck" recorded on 51 cylinders. The complete recordings, totaling 5 hours and 41 minutes, were made by anthropologists Alfred Kroeber and T.T. Waterman during Ishi’s five-year residency at the University of California Museum of Anthropology in San Francisco (now the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, UC Berkeley). The cylinders are held at the Hearst Museum in Berkeley. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"Come Down Ma Evenin' Star." Lillian Russell. (1912)
“Come Down Ma Evenin’ Star” is the only surviving recording of Lillian Russell, one of the greatest stars the American musical stage has ever known, a versatile performer at home in operetta, burlesque and vaudeville whose personal life often generated as much publicity as her performances. Born in 1861, she was a star before movies and recordings, which in their early days could not do justice to her famous beauty, voice, style and stage presence. “Come Down” was her signature song. She introduced it in the 1902 burlesque review “Twirly-Wirly,” parodying the nouveau-riche society figure she had become, but investing it with a poignancy that reflected its troubled history. The song was written by her former music director John Stromberg, who committed suicide over the pain of chronic, untreatable rheumatism hours after finishing it. Russell recorded it in 1912, but it was not released. In 1943, rare record dealer Jack L. Caidin found a lone test pressing of it, inscribed by Russell herself, and released it on his own specialty label, providing us with a brief echo of the Lillian Russell phenomenon, and a fleeting glimpse into nineteenth century American theater. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Lovey's Trinidad String Band. (1912)
These Trinidadian instrumental musicians were recorded for Columbia Records in New York City during a tour in 1912. Lovey's String Band exemplifies a pre-jazz "hot" style common in the Caribbean at the time. Selected for the 2002 registry.
“Fon der Choope (From the Wedding).” Abe Elenkrig’s Yidishe Orchestra. (April 4, 1913)
Barber and trumpeter Abraham Elenkrig recorded this lively number for Columbia Records in the spring of 1913 and the ten songs were among the first klezmer recordings made in America. While chiefly colored by Romanian musical influences, the cornet and trombone on “Fon der Choope” lend it a brassy sound typical of John Phillip Sousa, Arthur Pryor and other popular military bands of the time. It was a sound characteristic of early klezmer recordings in the United States. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"The Castles in Europe One-Step (Castle House Rag)." Europe's Society Orchestra. (1914)
James Reese Europe was the first black bandleader to record in the United States and was the personal conductor for the immensely popular 1910s dance team, Irene and Vernon Castle. Europe's recordings were important stepping stones in the development of jazz. They exhibit a frenetic quality with more looseness and greater syncopation than is heard in any other dance bands of the era. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Elegant, charming and unexpected, Jerome Kern’s “They Didn’t Believe Me” was a late arrival—or interpolation—into the musical “The Girl from Utah.” Its appearance marked a turning point in American theater music and popular song. Its melody has been described as “natural as walking,” free from the formal-sounding, stilted phrases and form that typified most show music of the period. The song quickly became an enormous hit and greatly accelerated Kern’s career. This recording by Macdonough and Green (nee Olive Kline) is the first known recording of the song and represents well its forward-looking informality. Although the song” is in standard eight-measure phrases, the melody and words (by Herbert Reynolds) fall into delightful anacrusis, and the singers create a relaxed, free-flowing effect. Selected for the 2013 registry.
Tenor John McCormack’s recording of “Il mio tesoro” from “Don Giovanni” is considered a model of Mozart performance. His rich voice, seamless phrasing and superb technical skill contribute to making this reading the standard by which other performances of this aria have been measured. Selected for the 2006 registry.
The Bubble Book (the first Bubble Book). (1917)
The Bubble Books, published by Harper Columbia between 1917 and 1922, were the first series of books and records published together especially for children. Authors were Ralph Mayhew and Burges Johnson, while Rhoda Chase provided the beautiful, full-color line drawings. Each book contained three 5 1/2-inch discs to accompany the three nursery rhymes printed in the books. The singer is not listed on the discs but is thought to be Henry Burr. Millions of the books were sold to delighted children in the U.S. and abroad. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 103KB]
"Listen to the Lambs." The Hampton Quartette. (1917)
Representative of the Hampton Quartet Collection at Hampton University. Natalie Burlin, a pioneer in the study of American minority cultures, was one of the leading collectors and transcribers of indigenous music of Africa and the United States. Beginning around 1903, she worked to document and preserve Native American culture and, in 1910, extended her work to studies of African-American and African culture. Burlin published four volumes of transcriptions taken from performances by students at Virginia's Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1918-1919. Recordings by the Hampton Quartette made on wax cylinders during the 1880s, including this recording of "Listen to the Lambs," were probably the basis of some of her published transcriptions. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Inextricably associated in popular imagination with World War I, Nora Bayes' recording introduced George M. Cohan's song and became an international hit. Cohan had specifically requested that Bayes be the first singer to record his composition. A former member of the Ziegfeld Follies and an extremely popular vaudevillian and a Broadway star, she recorded a number of other songs to boost morale during the war and performed extensively for the troops. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 94KB]
Acoustic Recordings for Victor Records. Jascha Heifetz. (1917-1924)
Sixteen-year-old Jascha Heifetz made his debut at Carnegie Hall in October 1917. He was immediately hailed as one of the greatest violinists of the time, praised for his immaculate technique and exceptional tonal beauty. Soon after his debut, Heifetz started recording for the Victor Talking Machine Company. He would maintain a relationship with Victor, and later RCA Victor, over the course of his career. These acoustic recordings, made between 1917 and 1924, were mostly light recital pieces with piano accompaniment. The Victor Records brochure promoting his first four recordings touted “his phenomenal technique, complete mastery of bow and control of finger” and proclaimed his performances “as Mozart might have played.” Selected for the 2008 registry.
In one of the first recorded versions of this American standard, cabaret star Marion Harris, in a profound departure from then-current singing styles, sang in a relaxed, loose-limbed, near swinging style. Her performance matched perfectly the lyric of this unsentimental love song by Turner Layton and Harry Creamer, and also its sleek, blues-inflected melody and harmony. Layton and Creamer were part of a small group of African American songwriters to write for Broadway revues during the 1910s. This recording of “After You’ve Gone” led the transition in American popular singing from a full-throated, relatively stilted style, to a manner more relaxed, subtle and evocative. Selected for the 2012 registry.
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 a new art form--jazz. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Crazy Blues." Mamie Smith. (1920)
With her recording of "Crazy Blues," Mamie Smith became the first black vocalist to make a commercial vaudeville blues record. The recording was a surprise hit, reputedly selling more than 250,000 copies. It revealed to record companies a previously neglected market for records--African-Americans. Subsequently, thousands of recordings were made of black jazz and blues artists, invigorating the record business and enabling the documentation and preservation of one of the richest eras of musical creativity in the United States. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Swanee." Al Jolson. (1920)
George Gershwin and Irving Caesar's song "Swanee" was interpolated into the show "Sinbad" for Al Jolson. The song became Gershwin's first hit and remained associated with Jolson throughout his career. This recording captures the energy of Gershwin's work and Jolson's unique ability to "put over" a song with exuberance. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Guy B. Johnson cylinder recordings of African-American music. (1920s)
These cylinders comprise some of the earliest field recordings of African-American music. They were recorded on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, in the 1920s. They are held primarily at the Southern Folklife Collection of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with smaller numbers in the collections of the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture and the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music. Selected for the 2003 registry.
William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech is one of the best-known political addresses in American history. The speech was originally delivered at the 1896 Democratic convention. In it, the "Great Commoner," as the populist candidate was called, advocated the replacement of the gold standard by silver. The speech is said to have won Bryan the Democratic nomination for President. Bryan recorded excerpts of the speech for Gennett Records twenty-five years after the 1896 convention. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Performed by Fanny Brice in the "Ziegfeld Follies of 1921," "My Man" and "Second Hand Rose" were recorded by her for Victor Records the same year and issued together on a double-faced 78-rpm disc. Known for her comedic songs in Yiddish and other dialects, Brice was in the midst of marital woes when she recorded "My Man." Audiences, connecting strongly with her passionate performance, concluded she was singing about herself. "Second Hand Rose" was a follow-up to a previous hit song, "Rose of Washington Square," and was a rare instance of the sequel exceding its predecessor. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Arkansaw Traveler" and "Sallie Gooden." Eck Robertson. (1922)
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 "Arkansaw Traveler" on the flip side. Selected for the 2002 registry.
This odd OKeh record label recording of a bad cornet solo interspersed by a laughing woman and man was one of the most popular discs of the 1920s. The laughing was infectious to listeners, so much so that the disc was re-recorded several times and inspired imitations by other record companies. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 121KB]
"Ory's Creole Trombone." Kid Ory. (June 1922)
This ensemble of trombonist Kid Ory, originally called "Spikes' Seven Pods of Pepper," was the first recording ever issued of a black jazz band from New Orleans. It was recorded by Andrae Nordskog for his Santa Monica, California-based Nordskog record label. Later under confusing circumstances, the record was issued on the Sunshine label belonging to Los Angeles music promoters the Spikes Brothers. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Down Hearted Blues." Bessie Smith. (1923)
"Down Hearted Blues" is the best-selling and most 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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"See See Rider Blues." Gertrude "Ma" Rainey. (1923)
"Ma" Rainey, called by some "the Mother of the Blues," was a pioneering blues artist whose career began in tent shows and vaudeville. She is credited with influencing many blues singers, most notably Bessie Smith. Although others recorded blues songs before Rainey and had begun to refine the genre, her recordings retain the powerful directness and poignancy that made her famous. Rainey made numerous recordings for the Paramount label; this recording is from a session she recorded with Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 100KB]
“Canal Street Blues.” King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. (April 5, 1923)
This recording of April 5, 1923, is the second title recorded by Oliver’s ensemble. Of the group, “Early Jazz” author Gunther Schuller wrote, “The glory of the Creole Jazz Band is that it sums up…all that went into the New Orleans way of making music: its joy, its warmth of expression, its Old World pre-war charm, its polyphonic complexity, its easy relaxed swing....” Oliver's 1923 band included Oliver on first trumpet; Louis Armstrong, second trumpet; Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Honore Dutrey, trombone; and Baby Dodds, drums; and others. Selected for the 2009 registry.
Armistice Day broadcast. Woodrow Wilson. (November 10, 1923)
This recording of former President Woodrow Wilson made by phonograph technician Frank L. Capps is the earliest surviving sound recording of a regular radio broadcast. It is also believed to be the earliest known example of a recording made by electrical, rather than acoustic, means. Selected for the 2004 registry.
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
In the 1920s, before national radio networks existed, a group of radio stations from across the country cooperated in a test to determine how radio stations might respond in a national emergency. This is the recording of that experiment. It is notable as one of only a handful of extant recorded radio broadcasts from this era. Furthermore, it is technologically significant as an experiment of real-time switching between stations in 14 different cities. Featured on the recording are conversations between General John J. Pershing and other generals stationed throughout the country. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Adeste Fideles." The Associated Glee Clubs of America. (1925)
In 1925, Columbia Records chose to promote its new electrical recording process by recording a chorus of several thousand voices at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Fifteen glee clubs participated in the March 31, 1925 concert. In the finale, concert performers and audience combined forces to record "Adeste Fideles." By recording electrically with a microphone rather than an acoustic recording horn, the sound produced was indeed more faithful to the actual performance, and louder, than any recording made by the other older method. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Charleston." The Golden Gate Orchestra. (1925)
The musicians on this Edison disc recording included such notable musicians as Red Nichols, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, and Adrian Rollini. This selection represents the Edison Disc Record Master Mold Collection at the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, New Jersey. The Edison Phonograph Works used these metal molds to mass-produce disc records from 1910 to 1929 and, as such, are the generation closest to original wax masters. They are the best-sounding sources for Edison disc recordings, as well as the most archivally stable. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Inauguration of Calvin Coolidge. (March 4, 1925)
Calvin Coolidge's inauguration in 1925 was the first presidential inauguration to be broadcast. Using the latest technology, RCA and Bell Telephone aired the ceremonies over a makeshift network of radio stations. "The New York Times" estimated that more than 25 million Americans would be able to hear the President's address, thus making it a national event in a manner not previously possible. Twenty-one radio stations, linked in a circuit throughout the country, broadcast the president's 47-minute inaugural address from the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Selected for the 2005 registry.
The first transatlantic radio broadcast. (March 14, 1925)
Representing a technological breakthrough, this early orchestral broadcast originated in London, traveled by land line to station 5XX in Chelmsford, England crossed the Atlantic where it was picked up by an RCA transmitter in Maine, and then relayed to stations WJZ in New York and WRC in Washington, D.C. Although the fidelity is low, the recording is significant as documentation of a technical achievement and is a rare instance of an extant example of a complete radio broadcast of the 1920s. Selected for the 2007 registry.
Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. Louis Armstrong. (1925-1928)
Louis Armstrong was jazz's first great soloist and is among American music's most important and influential figures. These sessions, his solos in particular, set a standard musicians still strive to equal in their beauty and innovation. Selected for the 2002 registry.
“Black Bottom Stomp.” Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. (1926)
“Black Bottom Stomp” is a masterly example of Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton’s creative talents as a composer, arranger and pianist. Moreover, it is an authentic representation of the New Orleans jazz tradition, which relied strongly on an ensemble polyphony where the frontline instruments of trumpet, clarinet and trombone played simultaneous but complementary themes. “Black Bottom Stomp” has more than one theme, or “strain,” a carryover from ragtime. Arranged with harmonized passages, breaks and solos, and a changing balance between the instrumentalists, Morton fashioned a unique, continuous whole. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Fascinating Rhythm." Fred and Adele Astaire; George Gershwin, piano. (1926)
"Lady, Be Good," George and Ira Gershwin's debut Broadway score, produced such standards as "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Oh, Lady Be Good!" The show starred siblings Fred and Adele Astaire. Several songs from the score were recorded in 1926 when the musical was touring in London. The recordings offer an opportunity to appreciate the innocent appeal of Adele, who retired from show business in 1932, and the piano accompaniments of composer George Gershwin. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Tanec Pid Werbamy/Dance Under the Willows." Pawlo Humeniuk. (1926)
Pawlo Humeniuk was a renowned violin player in Ukrainian communities before beginning his recording career with Columbia, for which he made this dance number. After learning the violin in western Ukraine at the age of 6, he enjoyed a busy career playing concerts, dances and vaudeville theaters. This song is an excellent example of the ethnic releases that record labels began to produce in the 1920s for sale to immigrant communities in the United States. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Blue Yodel (T for Texas)." Jimmie Rodgers. (1927)
The "blue yodels" of Jimmie Rodgers, the "Father of Country Music," helped to define country music. Rodgers' compositions and recorded performances combined black and white musical forms and popularized American rural music traditions. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground." Blind Willie Johnson. (1927)
Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945), a blind African-American guitar-evangelist from Beaumont, Texas, recorded 30 titles between 1927 and 1930. Although most of them were classics, none were quite like "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground." To create this singular work, Johnson drew on an 18th-century hymn of English origin known as "Gethsemane," which begins with the lines "Dark was the night, cold was the ground/On which my Lord was laid." Instead of singing the lyrics, however, he evoked the sorrowful intensity of the hymn’s subject matter by humming and moaning wordlessly in the manner of a church congregation, reinforcing and ornamenting his voice with sliding notes on his guitar. Johnson has distilled the essence of the text and the tradition into an unforgettably intense evocation of Christ on the eve of the Crucifixion as relived in the music of the churches he knew in his youth. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"Singin' the Blues." Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke. (1927)
Saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer and cornetist Bix Beiderbecke created some of the most significant jazz recordings of the 1920s, works still noted for their beauty and influence on fellow musicians. Traumbauer and Beiderbecke had previously worked together in the orchestras of Jean Goldkette, Adrian Rollini and Paul Whiteman. Together with guitarist Eddie Lang and other members of the ensemble, Trumbauer and Beiderbecke recorded "Singin' the Blues," which contains one of Beiderbecke's greatest solos. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Stardust." Hoagy Carmichael. (1927)
"Stardust" was songwriter Hoagy Carmichael's first great success. It was performed at a rapid tempo when it was first recorded in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael on piano and His Pals. In later, slower interpretations, "Stardust" became one of the most recorded ballads in jazz and popular repertories. Lyrics were added to the song in 1931. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Victor Talking Machine Company sessions in Bristol, Tennessee. The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Stoneman, and others. (1927)
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"El Manisero" ("The Peanut Vendor") (Rita Montaner, vocal with orchestra); "El Manisero" (Don Azpiazu and His Havana Casino Orchestra). (1927; 1930)
Popular Cuban singer and radio artist Rita Montaner recorded the first version of the traditional song "El Manisero" in Havana in 1927. The Don Azpiazu and His Havana Casino Orchestra version of "El Manisero," adapted from Montaner's recording, was made in New York City three years later. It is the first American recording of an authentic Latin dance style composition. This later recording launched a decade of "rumbamania," introducing U.S. listeners to Cuban percussion instruments and Cuban rhythms. Selected for the 2005 registry.
First official transatlantic telephone conversation. (January 7, 1927)
Upon the opening of the transatlantic telephone circuit for commercial service, W.S. Gifford, president of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., called Sir Evelyn P. Murray, secretary of the General Post Office of Great Britain, offering felicitations. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 101KB]
Charles A. Lindbergh's arrival and reception in Washington, D.C., NBC radio broadcast coverage. (June 11, 1927)
NBC radio's June 11, 1927 coverage of the arrival of Charles A. Lindbergh in Washington D.C. was a landmark technical as well as journalistic achievement for the fledgling network. Radio reporters were stationed at the three locations in Washington to provide successive, live descriptions of the pilot's arrival: the Washington Navy Yard; the procession along Pennsylvania Avenue; and his reception at the foot of the Washington Monument by President Calvin Coolidge. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Allons a Lafayette." Joseph Falcon. (1928)
“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 for Columbia Records in a New Orleans field session on April 17, 1928. 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 live with his second wife, Theresa, until his death in 1965. Selected for the 2007 registry.
“Wildwood Flower.” The Carter Family. (1928)
The legendary Carter Family’s most famous recording, “Wildwood Flower,” showcases Mother Maybelle Carter’s legendary “Carter Scratch,” her trademark guitar technique in which she plays melody on the bass strings with her thumb while strumming the rhythm on the treble strings. The Carter Family’s close harmony singing, unique picking style and popularization of folk tunes, as well as other song genres, formed the foundation of modern country music and continues to significantly influence musicians today. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Casta Diva" from Bellini's "Norma." Rosa Ponselle; accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Giulio Setti. (December 31, 1928 and January 30, 1929.)
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 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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Ain't Misbehavin'." Thomas "Fats" Waller. (1929)
"Fats" Waller's solo piano recording of his now-classic composition "Ain't Misbehavin'" preserves the composer's inventive talents as one of jazz's greatest pianists. In this recording Waller took the "stride" piano tradition to a new level of musical expression. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Cajun-Creole Columbia releases. Amadé Ardoin and Dennis McGee. (1929)
Amadé Ardoin was an African-American accordionist whose passionate singing and syncopated playing left an influential legacy to both Cajun and Zydeco music. He first recorded in 1929 with fellow sharecropper Dennis McGee, a Cajun violinist. The popularity of their music, exhibiting a fine synthesis of Cajun and Creole styles, transcended racial barriers. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Gregorio Cortez." Trovadores Regionales. (1929)
This vocal duet with guitar, by Pedro Rocha and Lupe Martinez, is an outstanding example of the "corridos" style of ballad. Reflecting the cultural conflicts between Mexican-Americans and Anglo-Americans in the American Southwest, it describes the heroics of a vaquero falsely accused of murder. The Vocalion label recording of "Gregorio Cortez" is representative of the significant recordings being preserved in the Arhoolie Foundation's Strachwitz Frontera Collection of commercially-produced Mexican and Mexican-American recordings at the University of California, Los Angeles. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. Sergei Rachmaninoff, piano; Leopold Stokowski, conductor; Philadelphia Orchestra. (1929)
Sergei Rachmaninoff's piano performances of his own compositions are considered by many to be unparalleled. Rachmaninoff first recorded the complete 2nd piano concerto in 1929. Two of its three movements were released on acoustically recorded discs in 1924. Selected for the 2004 registry.
“Pony Blues.” Charley Patton. (1929)
This is the signature recording of Charley Patton, one of the first and finest blues musicians to ever come out of the Mississippi Delta region. “Pony Blues” showcases Patton’s characteristic trademarks: powerful vocals, heavily accented guitar rhythms and unusual vocal phrasing. Patton was an enormous influence on his contemporaries and future blues performers, notably Howlin’ Wolf, Bukka White and Big Joe Williams. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Light's Golden Jubilee." (October 21, 1929)
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of incandescent light, inventor Thomas Edison was honored at a dinner held on October 21, 1929. Portions of the celebration were broadcast over the NBC radio network. Hosted by announcer Graham McNamee, the radio program included speeches by President Herbert Hoover, Marie Curie, Henry Ford and, speaking over shortwave from Berlin, Albert Einstein. Messages from the Prince of Wales, President Von Hindenberg and Commander Richard Byrd from the South Pole were also read during the broadcast. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 94KB]
Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Op. 84. Modesto High School Band. (1930)
This 1930 recording of the Modesto, California High School Band is the only known recording made by a high school band participating in the National High School Band contests held between 1926 and 1934. Under the direction of Frank Mancini, Modesto High School placed third in the 1927 and 1928 contests and second in 1929. An important educator and conductor who directed band programs in California area schools, Mancini was a former member of the bands of John Philip Sousa and Patrick Conway. Limited edition high school band recordings were once common, produced as fundraising tools for school bands and treasured as souvenirs by band members. However, few high school bands were recorded before the advent of tape recording and long-playing discs in the late 1940s. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 392KB]
“Night Life.” Mary Lou Williams. (1930)
When a record producer asked for an impromptu solo piano performance, 20-year-old Mary Lou Williams created an original three-minute collage of stride, ragtime, blues and pop styles that summarized the art of jazz piano up to that time while pointing to the future of that genre and her own career in it. At the time, she was a pianist, composer and arranger for Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy, one of the great jazz bands of the Midwest. She later said that thoughts about the nightlife of Kansas City had driven this composition. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Ten Cents a Dance." Ruth Etting. (1930)
Singer Ruth Etting was one of the first great singers of the electrical era of recording, the period after the mid-1920’s when the microphone replaced the acoustic recording horn. As with the best of the male crooners of the period, Etting's vocal delivery was artfully understated and personal. In the words of popular music writers Phil Hardy and Dave Laing, Etting, “[b]y turns peppy, fragile, and gallant...evinced the contradictory spirits of America in the Depression: sometimes beaten down, sometimes bearing up, whenever possible blithe.” All these characteristics are evident in her recording of Rodgers and Hart's “Ten Cents a Dance,” recorded only two weeks after Etting introduced the song on stage in the musical “Simple Simon.” Selected for the 2011 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 294KB]
"The Suncook Town Tragedy." Mabel Wilson Tatro of Springfield, Vermont. (July 1930)
This ballad about a New Hampshire tragedy is one of the earliest recordings recorded by Helen Hartness Flanders. She recorded many similar vernacular story-songs in her extensive documentation of the vernacular music of Vermont. Copies of the recording are held by Middlebury College and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Highlander Center Field Recording Collection. Zilphia Horton, others. (1930s-1980s)
The Highlander Center has played an important role 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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"It’s the Girl." The Boswell Sisters with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. (1931)
The Boswell Sisters—Connie, Martha and Vet—produced vocal harmonies that were magical. While polished, their creamy blend revealed their New Orleans roots with its relentless swing and deep feeling for the blues. "It’s the Girl," a popular song of 1931, is given a classic Boswell treatment: rhythmic variations on the original song, perfect diction projected with relaxed ease and a fast tempo—with sudden tempo and mood changes—and a sprint to the end. The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra accompaniment, like the Boswell Sisters’ performance, pairs the brisk, loose ease of New Orleans jazz within a tight knit ensemble. Selected for the 2010 registry.
Will Rogers had starred on the stage and screen and even made records, but when he entered radio broadcasting, it proved to be a natural medium for his folksy but pointed ruminations on topical matters. At one of the lowest points of the Great Depression, he took part in a national broadcast with President Herbert Hoover to kick off a nationwide unemployment relief campaign. Rogers praised Hoover’s integrity and intentions, but also decried the tragedy of such hard times in a land of plenty: “We’ll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poor house in an automobile,” he observed. “The potter’s fields are lined with granaries full of grain. Now if there ain’t something wrong in an arrangement like that, then this microphone here in front of me is—well, it’s a cuspidor, that’s all.” The broadcast demonstrates the status Rogers had gained as a spokesperson for the “common man,” who used popular culture to satirize financial and political corruption, especially as the country went from the extravagant twenties into economic depression. Although Rogers is sardonic, the talk also conveys his fundamental optimism and faith in the good-heartedness of the American people. Selected for the 2012 registry.
Bell Laboratories experimental stereo recordings. Philadelphia Orchestra; Leopold Stokowski, conductor. (1931-1932)
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Brother, Can You Spare A Dime." Bing Crosby; Rudy Vallee. (both 1932)
Composed by Jay Gorney and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” was the show-stopping number of the 1932, Depression-era musical “American Revue.” The minor-key melody, according to Gorney, was inspired by a Yiddish lullaby. The song’s lyrics underscored the irony of Depression-era American working class who had once built railroads and fought wars only to now find themselves waiting in bread lines. With its bittersweet melody and bold, unsentimental lyrics, this arresting anthem to America’s “forgotten man” became a major hit. Recordings by Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee—both issued the same year—were best sellers and emphasized the song’s strengths in different ways. Crosby’s nuanced baritone played to the song’s drama; his use of rubato during the verse being especially effective. On the other hand, Vallee’s light tenor is more emotionally removed and allows the song to stand more on its own merits. Selected for the 2013 registry.
Rosina Cohen oral narrative from the Lorenzo D. Turner Collection. (1932)
African-American linguist Lorenzo D. Turner recorded numerous Gullah dialect stories, songs, sermons, and accounts of slavery during the summers of 1932 and 1933. In this oral narrative, Rosina Cohen recounts her memories of slaves being freed by Yankees on Edisto Island. The recording is significant as a permanent record of a vanishing American regional dialect and as a document of African-American cultural history. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Show Boat" (album). Victor Young, conductor; Louis Alter, piano. (1932)
Original cast recordings of hit musicals were not made at the time of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's landmark 1927 show, "Show Boat." In 1932, however, Brunswick Records recorded 10 sides of selections from the musical and issued them as an album set. The most notable performances on the set are those of Helen Morgan, the original "Julie," and Paul Robeson, who played "Joe" in the London cast. The set also includes discs of the musical's overture and finale, making it as close to an original cast album as one may encounter from this period. Selected for the 2005 registry.
In 2002, the American Folklife Center created the online presentation“Voices from the Days of Slavery,”gathering together 24 interviews with former African-American slaves conducted mostly between 1932 and 1941 and across nine Southern states as part of various field recording projects. During this period, thousands of slave narratives were also collected on paper from by WPA workers, but these are the only known audio recordings of former slaves. As historian C. Vann Woodward said of the WPA narratives, these recordings “represent the voices of the normally voiceless,” but with all the nuances of expression that written transcriptions cannot reproduce. They recall aspects of slave life and culture, including family relations, work routines, songs, dances, and tales, as well as their relationship with masters, punishments, auctions, and escapes. They recount experiences of the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. One interviewee worked for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, as did his father and grandfather. These are fragments of history, and reflect the technical and social limitations of the recording sessions, but the voices of these ex-slaves provide invaluable insight into their lives, communities, and the world of slavery they left behind. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Goodnight, Irene." Lead Belly. (1933)
Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly or Leadbelly, sang spirituals, popular songs, field and prison hollers, cowboy and children's songs, dance tunes and folk ballads, as well as his own compositions throughout his career. Lead Belly was first recorded in 1933 by John and Alan Lomax when the singer was serving time in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. "Goodnight, Irene," Lead Belly's best-known song, became a bestseller for the Weavers in 1950, just months after Lead Belly's death. This is the first recording of "Irene," which includes some lyrics that were later changed. Selected for the 2003 registry.
“Stormy Weather.” Ethel Waters. (1933)
Ethel Waters began her career as a blues singer but became a pioneer jazz singer, adapting her voice to a conversational style in which the meaning of the song lyrics are conveyed with subtle theatricality. Waters' rendition of "Stormy Weather" became a bestseller, bringing her tremendous exposure and respect as a jazz singer and incomparable interpreter of the American Songbook. “Stormy Weather” composers Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler originally intended their 1933 song to be sung by Cab Calloway in a revue to take place at Harlem's Cotton Club. However, it quickly made its way to Waters instead who then made it her own. Selected for the 2004 registry.
The Fireside Chats were an influential series of radio broadcasts in which Roosevelt utilized the media to present his programs and ideas directly to the public and thereby redefined the relationship between the President and the American people. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Harvard Vocarium record series. T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, others. (1933-1956)
From the 1930s to the 1950s The Harvard University Poetry Room produced the Harvard Vocarium record label which featured prominent authors reading their own works. Among the writers recorded were T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Tennessee Williams. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 104KB]
"If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again." Thomas A. Dorsey. (1934)
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.) Selected for the 2007 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 92KB]
"Mal Hombre." Lydia Mendoza. (1934)
Singer Lydia Mendoza (1916-2007) once said, "It doesn’t matter if it's a corrido, a waltz, a bolero, a polka or whatever. When I sing that song, I live that song." Mendoza had been performing and recording with her family’s band since the late 1920s, and was only 16 when she recorded "Mal Hombre," investing the song’s bitter lyrics with an artistic maturity that belied her age: "Cold-hearted man, your soul is so vile it has no name." "Mal Hombre" launched her solo career, her stark voice and graceful 12-string guitar lines resounding strongly with the Spanish-speaking audience of Texas. The Houston-born singer was soon known as "La Alondra de la Frontera," The Lark of the Border. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"Tumbling Tumbleweeds." The Sons of the Pioneers. (1934)
The cowboy vocal group The Sons of the Pioneers was formed in 1933 by Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan. The group became America’s premier western singing group and remained so for decades. They still perform today with different singers. The Sons of the Pioneers are widely admired for their smooth and adventurous harmonies. Their songs serve as the foundation of non-traditional, popular cowboy music. "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" was one of the songs cut at the Sons' first recording session, and it became the group's theme song, beautifully evoking the cowboy’s love of the land. Selected for the 2010 registry.
“You’re the Top.” Cole Porter. (1934)
“You’re the Top” is a work by composer/lyricist Cole Porter at the top of his form. Seamlessly, the words and music of this quintessential “list song” convey wit, exuberance, and charmingly high- and low-cultural references. This solo performance, by Porter, invites the listener to become part of Porter’s universe and imagine the composer performing, much as he might have for friends on a luxury cruise or in his own Waldorf Astoria suite. Selected for the 2006 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 119KB]
"New Music Quarterly" recordings. (1934-1949)
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, Edgard Varese, Cowell, and Charles Ives. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Every Man a King." Speech by Huey P. Long. (February 23, 1934)
Huey Long, governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930 but did not take his Senate seat until 1932, after he had handpicked a successor for the governorship. A radical populist, he proposed a "Share the Wealth" plan with the motto "Every Man a King." The wealth was to be shared by increases in inheritance taxes which would "guarantee a family wealth of around $5,000; enough for a home and automobile, a radio, and the ordinary conveniences." In this 1934 radio speech, the Senator outlines his plan and explains why he no longer supports President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart." Patsy Montana. (1935)
Singer Patsy Montana's signature song, “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” was written at a time in 1934 when she was feeling lonely and missing her boyfriend. Montana recorded the song a year later when Art Satherly, of ARC Records, needed one more song for a recording session with the Prairie Ramblers. Her song's lively, quick polka tempo and yodeling refrain, and Montana's exuberant delivery, resulted in it being requested at every performance; it became one of the first hits by a female country and western singer. A popular performer on the WLS radio program “National Barn Dance,” Montana was the soloist with the Prairie Ramblers, a group that successfully melded jazz and string band music. Montana's film appearance in a Gene Autry film, “Colorado Sunset” in 1939 introduced her to a wider audience, and her independent air, high-spirited personality, and singing style quickly secured her popularity as a singing cowgirl. Patsy Montana was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. Selected for the 2011 registry.
In 1935, on their expedition to document rare North American birds, Arthur Allen and Peter Paul Kellogg of Cornell University recorded a pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers in an old-growth Louisiana swamp forest known as the Singer Tract. These recordings of the birds’ calls and foraging taps are presently the last confirmed aural evidence of what was once the largest woodpecker species in the United States. The last universally accepted sighting of an ivory-bill occurred in 1944. However, since that time, many scientists believe there have been credible sightings of the species, suggesting the bird might not be extinct. These 1935 recordings have been vital to recent searches and have been used to train searchers on what to listen for. They have also been used to develop pattern-recognition software, enlisting computers to analyze new field recordings identifying similar sounds. Selected for the 2008 registry.
“Tristan und Isolde.” Metropolitan Opera, featuring Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior, NBC broadcast. (March 9, 1935)
This recording captures Wagnerian singing at its dramatic best by two of the greatest voices of the twentieth century and prime interpreters of the lead roles. The beauty and purity of Flagstad’s singing, captured at the beginning of her worldwide fame, combined with Melchior’s heroic scale and nobility creates an unsurpassed performance in this profoundly influential opera. This recording is an early example of the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday matinee broadcasts, which have brought live performances of complete operas into homes throughout the world for more than 75 years. Selected for the 2009 registry.
“Gang Busters.” (July 20, 1935)
The radio crime drama series “Gang Busters” was the creation of Phillips H. Lord, producer of the successful “Seth Parker” radio series. Capitalizing on the public’s fascination with gangsters, Lord based his new show on true crime stories, going so far as to obtain the cooperation of the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. “G-Men,” as the series was known initially, premiered on July 20, 1935, but the FBI’s enthusiasm waned quickly and its cooperation diminished. Revised as “Gang Busters,” the show remained on the air until the late 1950s. The program’s spectacular opening, which included sirens, police whistles, gunshots and tires screeching, inspired the slang expression, “come on like gangbusters!” Selected for the 2008 registry.
"He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Marian Anderson. (1936)
The vocal art of contralto Marian Anderson showed equal mastery of both the classical and spiritual repertory. In 1929, she gave her first recital at Carnegie Hall which served to launch her career in the U.S. and abroad. She is remembered for her performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where, in 1955, she its first African-American performer, and for her landmark 1939 concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The spiritual, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," was one of Anderson's favorites, often performed at the conclusion of her recitals. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Wabash Cannonball." Roy Acuff. (1936)
Fiddler and vocalist Roy Acuff's "Wabash Cannonball" was first recorded in 1936 and featured the vocals of Sam "Dynamite" Hatcher of Acuff's band, the Crazy Tennesseans. Acuff later changed the band's name to the Smoky Mountain Boys while continuing to make himself well known through motion picture appearances, recordings and personal tours. He first appeared as a regular on the "Grand Ole Opry" in 1938 and was its top star by 1942. "Wabash Cannonball" was recorded again by Acuff, this time with his own vocals, in 1947. In 1962, Acuff became the first living artist to be elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1962. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"The Complete Recordings." Robert Johnson. (1936-1937)
The recordings made by Delta bluesman Robert Johnson in 1936 and 1937 had a significant impact on fellow bluesmen, as well as on such rock musicians as Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. Considered by some to be the "King of the Delta Blues Singers," Johnson's emotive vocals, combined with his varied and masterful guitar playing, continue to influence blues and popular music performers to this day. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"One O'Clock Jump." Count Basie and His Orchestra. (1937)
This landmark of the big band Swing Era first came together as a "head arrangement." Head arrangements, worked out in rehearsal and committed to memory rather than written down, gave much freedom to soloists and allowed the musicians to concentrate on the rhythmic drive for which Kansas City jazz and the Basie orchestra is noted. The Basie orchestra, like most Kansas City-style bands, was organized around its rhythm section. The interplay of brass and reeds on the "One O'Clock Jump" serves as a backdrop for the unfolding solos of the band's extraordinary players, including Lester Young, Herschel Evans and Buck Clayton. Selected for the 2005 registry.
As broadcast on "The Columbia Workshop," Earle McGill's production of Archibald MacLeish's chilling vision of a not-so-future war featured Orson Welles as narrator. This program brought experimental radio, as pioneered by "The Columbia Workshop," to maturity and profoundly influenced a generation of creative radio producers and directors. Also featured were Burgess Meredith and Paul Stewart. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 89KB]
Crash of the Hindenburg. Herbert Morrison, reporting. (May 6, 1937)
An emotional, never-to-be-forgotten moment of news broadcasting in which a tragedy is witnessed and spontaneously reported. This actuality was the first exception to network radio's ban on the airing of recordings. Selected for the 2002 registry.
This broadcast is the earliest known recording of this popular series to surface. It features a pair of brothers who rob a bank, hide out in an abandoned mine, and are eventually discovered and brought to justice by the Lone Ranger. The series had been on the air since early 1933 and its popularity was enormous. In fact, the show reversed the failing finances of Detroit station WXYZ, and, when WXYZ banded with several other stations to form the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1934, the show proved central to the success of the network. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Begin the Beguine." Artie Shaw & His Orchestra. (1938)
To have ended up as one of the indisputable classics of the Swing Era, “Begin the Beguine” had an inauspicious start. Cole Porter wrote it for the 1935 musical “Jubilee” which, despite good reviews, closed after a short run. Artie Shaw remarked on how close he came to not knowing about the song: “I happened to get to the theater on Friday and the show closed Saturday.” Shaw remembered the song, however, and in 1938, wanted to record “Beguine” in spite of its long, complicated structure. According to guitarist Al Avola, Shaw changed the usual slow tempo of a beguine to a 4/4 time called “bending the Charleston.” With some reluctance, RCA Victor, his new record company, allowed Shaw to release the recording as the “B” side to “Indian Love Call.” “Begin the Beguine” quickly became a hit and brought fame to Shaw and his band. Although Shaw became disenchanted with having to play “Begin the Beguine,” his de facto theme song, at every performance, the impact of this powerful recording of such a complex tune has remained a milestone in recorded sound history. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen.” The Andrews Sisters. (1938)
This English-language version of a popular song from a Yiddish musical by Jacob Jacobs and Sholom Secunda brought the Andrews Sisters to national attention. In the version by Sammy Cahn, the only Yiddish retained was the song title (translation: "To me, you are beautiful"), a phrase which is repeated throughout. Vic Schoen, the Sisters’ bandleader and arranger, turned the number into a swing sensation that showcased the girls’ close harmony and smooth vocal syncopations. Selected for the 2008 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 176KB]
"The Cradle Will Rock" (album). Original cast recording. (1938)
The recording of this controversial musical about labor unions by Marc Blitzstein was the first complete recording of a Broadway show. The work was originally intended for production by the Federal Theater Project. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Fascinating Rhythm." Sol Hoopii and His Novelty Five. (1938)
In the 1890’s, Hawaiian musicians began playing open-tuned guitars flat in their laps, fretting the strings with steel to produce distinctive sliding tones. The style soon reached the mainland United States, and when young Sol Hoopii arrived in California in 1924, the Hawaiian steel guitar was a mature and demanding instrument with national popularity. Hoopii emerged as its greatest exponent, applying it to traditional hulas, ragtime, jazz, and pop. He and his peers influenced blues and country slide guitarists, and Dobros and pedal steel guitars are descended from the Hawaiian model. Hoopii switched to electric guitar in the 1930’s and on “Fascinating Rhythm,” he displays formidable technique, deftly mixing a chord solo and bass runs into a swinging improvisation on the Gershwin standard, departing far from the main melody, with beautiful tonal variations throughout. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Franz Boas is considered the father of American anthropology and is the founder of both the American Anthology Association and the American Folklore Society. In 1938, Boas and his former student, ethnomusicology pioneer George Herzog, recorded 22 aluminum discs of the Kwakwaka’wakw (sometimes spelled “Kwakiutl”) chief Dan Cranmer. Cranmer had been jailed in Canada in the 1920s for carrying on his people’s potlatch traditions, which were still being suppressed in the 1930s. Cranmer’s recordings for Boas and Herzog documented the tribe’s native language and the songs, speeches, games, feasts and ceremonies of the potlatch. Today, only about 5,500 Kwakwaka’wakw tribespeople remain in British Columbia with only about 250 of them still fluent in the tribe’s original language. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"John the Revelator." The Golden Gate Quartet. (1938)
This pioneer Virginia gospel quartet of the 1930s and 1940s had a profound influence on gospel music, furthering the development of gospel vocal quartets from the Jubilee-style of the 19th century to one influenced by 20th century jazz and popular music. The Quartet's smooth Mills Brothers-influenced harmonies, humor and vocal improvisations brought the quartet large audiences that extended far beyond the church. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Jelly Roll Morton interviews conducted by Alan Lomax. (1938)
In 1938, folklorist Alan Lomax recorded an extensive series of interviews at the Library of Congress with musician Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton. Morton performed his own compositions and those which influenced him, and told the story of his life over his piano vamping. Morton did not "invent" jazz, as he claimed to in the interviews, but he was the art form's first great composer. These recordings offer a fascinating, if not entirely accurate, autobiography of the musician, and a rich picture of life in early 20th century New Orleans. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"When You Wish Upon A Star.” Cliff Edwards. (recorded 1938; released 1940)
Cliff Edwards (“Ukulele Ike”) was an enormously popular singer in the 1920s and early 1930s, a star in vaudeville and early sound films. His “When You Wish Upon a Star” in Disney’s “Pinocchio,” however, remains the song for which he is best remembered. Edwards’ natural tenor and clear falsetto, along with the beauty of the composition, written by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, continues to touch listeners. This recording was one of the very first from a film soundtrack to be issued commercially. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert" (album). Benny Goodman. (January 16, 1938; released 1998)
This live concert recording catches clarinetist and band leader Benny Goodman, touted as the "King of Swing," at his peak, fronting top performers and appearing before an energetic audience for the debut of jazz at Carnegie Hall. Goodman's stellar bandsmen were joined by Lionel Hampton and members of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington ensembles for this famous festival of jazz during the height of the swing music era. "Swingtime in the Rockies," a jam on "Honeysuckle Rose," and Goodman's signature piece, "Sing, Sing, Sing" are highlights. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"The Adventures of Robin Hood." (May 11, 1938)
Prior to the release of its 1938 film "The Adventures of Robin Hood," Warner Bros. studio arranged to promote the motion picture by broadcasting portions of its musical score over its Los Angeles radio station, KFWB. The radio broadcast included composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold's symphonic scoring of 10 sequences from the film, with narration by actor Basil Rathbone. "Robin Hood" is one of Korngold's most respected dramatic scores, an outstanding example of what he termed "operas without words." Because commercial recordings of motion picture scores did not exist in 1938, this unusual film score recording was not published until 1975. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight. Clem McCarthy, announcer. (June 22,1938)
It is believed that more than 70 million people, the largest audience up to that date for a single radio broadcast, listened to NBC's broadcast of the boxing rematch between American Joe Louis and German Max Schmeling. From its inception, the fight was viewed as more than a sporting event. The symbolism of an African-American defeating a citizen of the political state that proclaimed the superiority of the white race was lost on no one. Veteran announcer Clem McCarthy delivered a blow-by-blow account of the 124-second match to radio audiences from a packed Madison Square Garden. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Who's on First?" Abbott and Costello. Earliest existing radio broadcast version. (October 6, 1938)
Already a staple of their vaudeville shows, Abbott & Costello first performed their beloved baseball routine, “Who’s On First?” on radio’s “The Kate Smith Hour” in March 24, 1938. The bit’s crescendoing wordplay and the team’s expert timing immediately grabbed and entranced listeners. “Who’s On First?” became the duo’s signature routine and the pair performed encores of it often. Though the recording of its March 1938 debut is thought to be lost, this recording—believed to be their second radio rendition as also heard on “Kate Smith”—has survived, as an example of Americana and timeless comedy. Selected for the 2002 registry.
“War of the Worlds” (“The Mercury Theatre on the Air”). (October 30, 1938)
Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre'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. at the time of its original airing. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Adagio for Strings." Arturo Toscanini, conductor; NBC Symphony. (November 5, 1938)
"Adagio for Strings," adapted for orchestra by Samuel Barber from a movement of his 1936 String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11, was created for maestro Arturo Toscanini. It was premiered to a widely enthusiastic audience on a November 5, 1938 radio broadcast of the NBC Symphony. Its tense melodic line and taut harmonies have made this moving composition one of the most popular of all 20th century classical works. The work is often performed and can be heard in the scores of many motion pictures and television programs, most notably "Platoon" and an episode of "Seinfeld." Selected for the 2005 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 54KB]
"God Bless America." Kate Smith. Radio broadcast premiere. (November 11, 1938)
Originally composed by Irving Berlin in 1918, and reworked by him in 1938, “God Bless America” has become the nation’s de facto anthem. Songstress Kate Smith performed her soon-to-be signature song for the first time on her radio show on November 11, 1938. It was an immediate sensation whose power and patriotism has not been diminished in the decades since. Though subsequently covered by innumerable other artists, Smith’s resounding version remains the best known and most beloved rendition. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Body and Soul." Coleman Hawkins. (1939)
An unlikely jukebox hit, this recording by Hawkins was the most popular and influential recording he made and one of the best-known recorded jazz performances in history. Through the influence of this recording, "Body and Soul" became a standard for tenor sax players, with many later recordings referencing parts of Hawkins' solo. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"In the Mood." Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. (1939)
"In the Mood," composed by Joe Garland and Andy Razaf, was one of Glenn Miller's most popular recordings and remains one of the best known musical themes of the World War II era. Miller led one of the most popular dance bands of the swing era. His arrangements were distinguished by a doubled melody on saxophone with a clarinet an octave higher. The sound his band produced was seamless and precise. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 140KB]
John Lomax, honorary consultant and curator for the fledgling Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, recorded hundreds of ballads, blues, cowboy songs, field hollers, spirituals, and work songs in a late 1930s sweep of nine southern states. Many ethnomusicologists consider the recordings made on this field trip to be among the most important of this genre. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"O Que é que a Bahiana tem." Carmen Miranda. (1939)
This recording, with its lively exchange between singer and dancer Carmen Miranda and the band, embodies the merriment of Brazilian Carnival songs. “O Que é que a Bahiana tem” (“What does the Bahian girl have?”) was an enormously successful recording in Brazil that celebrated Bahia culture at its roots and solidified samba's hold on Brazilian popular music. The recording helped to introduce both the samba rhythm and Carmen Miranda to American audiences. It was also the first recording of a song by Dorival Caymmi, who went on to become a major composer and performer. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Peter and the Wolf" (album). Serge Koussevitzky, conductor; Richard Hale, narrator; Boston Symphony Orchestra. (1939)
Composer Sergey Prokofiev brought his "orchestral fairy tale" "Peter and the Wolf" to Moscow audiences in 1936, having composed the music and written the narration as an introduction to orchestral music for children. This premiere recording of the work was performed by the Boston Symphony, under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky, with narration by Richard Hale. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Strange Fruit." Billie Holiday. (1939)
This searing song is arguably Billie Holiday's most influential recording. It brought the topic of lynching to the commercial record-buying public. Selected for the 2002 registry.
NBC Radio coverage of Marian Anderson’s recital at the Lincoln Memorial. (April 9, 1939)
By the end of the 1930s, African-American opera singer Marian Anderson had already been hailed as the greatest contralto of her generation. Yet this did not prevent the Daughters of the American Revolution from prohibiting her from performing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. in 1939. In response, and with the assistance of President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, Anderson was, on Easter Sunday of that year, invited to perform for a racially desegregated audience at the Lincoln Memorial. There she sang to an audience of over 75,000 people, with a national radio audience of millions more. Though brief newsreel excerpts of her brilliant performance have become familiar and even iconic since that time, the contemporary impact of this live, continuous radio coverage cannot be underestimated, and is now our most complete documentation of this key event in the struggle for civil rights. Selected for the 2008 registry.
WJSV (Washington, D.C.). Complete day of radio broadcasting. (September 21, 1939)
This aural time capsule preserves a full day (6:00 AM to 1:00 AM) of broadcasting by a CBS network affiliate radio station. It is the first known recording of an American station. Highlights include Arthur Godfrey, soap operas, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's address to Congress, coverage of the war in Europe, a baseball game, "Amos 'n' Andy," and "Major Bowes' Amateur Hour," as well as contemporary commercials. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 97KB]
Begun in Nashville over WSM on November 25, 1925, when it was originally known as the “WSM Barn Dance,” the “Grand Ole Opry” is today the longest, continuously-running program in radio history. As it was then, the “Opry” broadcast (which has been broadcast from various locations over the years, including the legendary Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville), remains a showcase for top drawer country music talent. Regional for the first 14 years of its airing, the “Opry” went national over the NBC network in 1939. This inaugural broadcast featured the seminal talents of long-time “Opry” performer Uncle Dave Macon, as well as relative newcomer Roy Acuff, and the “Opry” announcers George D. Hay and David Stone. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Bela Bartok, piano, and Joseph Szigeti, violin, in concert at the Library of Congress. (1940)
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"New San Antonio Rose." Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. (1940)
Bob Wills is considered one of the pioneers of the musical amalgam of old-time fiddle music, blues, pop, and jazz that came to be known as western swing. This recording of Wills' signature song became an American standard. Earlier recorded by Wills as an instrumental, this horn-laden version added the "Deep within my heart . . ." lyrics that are still popular. Selected for the 2003 registry.
“The Rite of Spring” (album). Igor Stravinsky, conductor; New York Philharmonic. (1940)
This U.S. recording, released on the Columbia label, of this 20th century masterwork, as conducted by its composer, is considered by many to be the best recording ever of Stravinsky conducting his own work. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Sweet Lorraine." Art Tatum. (1940)
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, easily 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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
“Tom Dooley.” Frank Proffitt. (1940)
Frank Proffitt first sang the murder ballad “Tom Dula” for Frank and Anne Warner in 1938 in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, and recorded a portion of it two years later, accompanying himself on a banjo of his own making. Although Proffitt’s performance would not be commercially released until many years later, it nevertheless provided the basis for Frank Warner’s national performances of the song and for the arrangement of the song, now known as “Tom Dooley,” that appeared in John and Alan Lomax’s “Folk Song USA” songbook in 1948. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Were You There." Roland Hayes. (1940)
Lyric tenor Roland Hayes was the child of former slaves and from an early age sang spirituals in church. As a young man, he studied European concert vocal techniques and refined his approach to spirituals as a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. In recitals, he regularly performed a mixture of spiritual and classical repertoire, eventually garnering considerable fame. Hayes recorded extensively, but his 1940 unaccompanied rendition of the spiritual “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)” may be his finest moment on record, and remains hauntingly moving over seventy years later. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"You Are My Sunshine." Jimmie Davis. (1940)
Jimmie Davis, country music singer and two-term governor of Louisiana, adopted “You Are My Sunshine” for his successful 1944 election campaign after recording it in 1940. It subsequently became one of the most popular country music songs of all time and has been recorded by artists in the U.S. and abroad in many styles. At least three recordings preceded Davis’s, and while Davis is credited on sheet music as co-composer of the song, the song’s authorship is the subject of dispute. Davis’s recording, featuring guitar, steel guitar, trumpet, clarinet, bass, and piano, added jazz styling to the simple tune. “You Are My Sunshine” became the official song of Louisiana in 1977. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Porgy and Bess" (album). "Original" cast recording. (1940; 1942)
Although the 1935 original production of "Porgy and Bess" was not a commercial success, the edited 1942 revival won popular as well as critical acclaim. These recordings of 1940 and 1942 were the first to feature the originators of the title roles and stars of the revival, Todd Duncan and Anne Brown. George Gershwin's score beautifully exhibits mastery of combining his Broadway idiom with jazz, folk, and classical elements. It includes the well-known "Summertime," "My Man's Gone Now," "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'," and "Bess, You is My Woman." Conceived as an "American folk opera," Gershwin envisioned his work as a "combination of the drama and romance of 'Carmen' and the beauty of 'Meistersinger.'" Selected for the 2003 registry.
Blanton-Webster era recordings. Duke Ellington Orchestra. (1940-1942)
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 in jazz history. Billy Strayhorn, arranger and composer, and Duke's son, Mercer, also contributed to these recordings. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Beethoven String Quartets. Budapest Quartet. (1940-1950)
The Budapest Quartet, known for its virtuosity, drive, and depth of interpretive insight, was among the most honored and respected chamber ensembles of the 20th century. As the Library of Congress' Quartet-in-Residence for 22 years, the Budapest brought the Beethoven string quartets, in concert and on Columbia Records, to a wider audience than ever before. Many subsequent string quartets have acknowledged their indebtedness to the Budapest. Selected for the 2003 registry.
An actor known for his rich bass voice, Alexander Scourby began his career in New York as a Shakespearean stage actor but was soon appearing in radio dramas, narrating television documentaries, hosting opera broadcasts, and providing voice-overs for commercials. Recording for the blind for over 40 years, his was the voice of great literature. He recorded the King James version of the Bible for the American Foundation for the Blind, recording all 66 books from 1940 to 1944. It became a bestseller when it was commercially released in 1966 by the American Bible Society. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 88KB]
"Fibber McGee and Molly." Fibber's closet opens for the first time. (March 4, 1940)
The hall closet at 79 Wistful Vista, home of Fibber McGee and Molly (played by Jim and Marian Jordan), was the source of one of radio’s most successful running sound gags and was America’s best-known pile of junk as it tumbled out each time the door was opened. 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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
Edward R. Murrow broadcast from London. (September 21, 1940)
Edward R. Murrow's eyewitness news broadcasts of the Battle of Britain conveyed the emotions and sounds of a city under siege to audiences throughout the United States. One of the best-remembered of that series of 1940 broadcasts was on September 21 when Murrow dispassionately described the bombing of London from a rooftop during the blitzkrieg. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Talking Union" (album). The Almanac Singers. (1941)
Proponents of progressive causes and pioneers of the American folk revival movement, the Almanac Singers in 1941 recorded spirited performances of songs that have become labor-movement anthems. The members of the Almanac Singers on this recording are vocalists Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, Sam Gary, Carol White, Bess Lomax Hawes, Pete Seeger (vocals and banjo) and Josh White (vocals and guitar). First issued on the Keynote label as a 78-rpm album and expanded for long-playing disc in 1955 by Folkways (now Smithsonian Folkways), the album includes songs by Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, Jim Garland and Woody Guthrie. Selected for the 2010 registry.
“America’s Town Meeting of the Air: Should Our Ships Convoy Materials to England?” (May 8, 1941)
“America’s Town Meeting of the Air” was a spirited public affairs program broadcast live from Town Hall in New York over NBC radio from the 1930s to the 1950s. This program aired seven months before the nation’s entry into World War II, when most of the country opposed entry into the war. The featured speakers were Reinhold Niebuhr, chairman of the Union for Democratic Action and creator of the Serenity Prayer, and John Flynn, New York chairman and a founder of the America First Committee. Niebuhr supported U.S. aid to Britain; Flynn opposed it. Selected for the 2009 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 155KB]
World Series Game Four–New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers. (October 5, 1941)
Game four of the 1941 World Series has long been remembered as the game when Mickey Owen dropped the ball. With two outs, no Yankees on base, and Brooklyn leading 4-3, a third strike on the Yankee's Tommy Henrich got past Dodgers catcher Owen and instead of clinching a victory to tie the series at 2-2, Brooklyn saw the Yankees go on to score four runs and win 7-4. New York won the series the following afternoon. This radio broadcast features the "Voice of the Dodgers," and later the Yankees, Red Barber, along with Bob Elson and Bill Corum as announcers. Colorful, innovative, and much respected, Barber remains a legend in the elite world of baseball broadcasters. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." The day after the assault on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress asking for a Declaration of War against Japan, marking the entry of the United States into World War II. The president’s voice, strong and confident, yet familiar and reassuring, rallied the American public and helped to prepare them for the sacrifices that lay ahead. Selected for the 2006 registry.
Commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, radio prducer and writer Norman Corwin created "We Hold These Truths." The one-hour drama exploring American values aired one week after the invasion of Pearl Harbor. The broadcast was carried on all four radio networks simultaneously to an audience of more than 60 million listeners, roughly half of the U.S. population at the time. It was the largest audience in history to listen to a dramatic presentation. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Native Brazilian Music" (album). Recorded under the supervision of Leopold Stokowski. (1942)
Leopold Stokowski and his All-American Youth Orchestra performed in Rio de Janeiro as part of a goodwill tour to South America in the summer of 1940. Prior to his visit to Brazil, Stokowski asked composer Heitor Villa-Lobos to help him collect and record popular Brazilian music, of which the conductor was a great admirer. Villa-Lobos assembled an elite group of musicians, including Pixinguinha, Donga, Cartola, Jararaca, Ratinho and José Espinguela. Forty recordings were made onboard the ship carrying Stokowski and the orchestra. Seventeen of the recordings, embracing musical styles such as sambas, batucadas, macumba and emboladas, were released in 1942 by Columbia Records on a 78-rpm album, “Native Brazilian Music.” Selected for the 2006 registry.
"White Christmas." Bing Crosby. (1942)
The original 1942 commercial recording by Bing Crosby. Crosby's later 1947 rendition of this Irving Berlin classic is one of the best-selling records ever made, but it is actually a remake of his earlier 1942 version. 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 original recording. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 101KB]
"Wings Over Jordan." (May 10, 1942)
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 over 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. Thankfully, many of these radio programs can be studied and appreciated today because they were pressed as electrical transcriptions for broadcast by the Armed Forces Radio Network. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Command Performance." Episode: No. 21. Bob Hope, master of ceremonies. (July 7, 1942)
Although Bob Hope is known for his tireless touring for the United Service Organizations (USO), he also lent his services to other entertainment projects for the troops during World War II including "Command Performance." Of the programs broadcast by the Armed Forces Radio Service–-a wartime broadcasting service for the troops-–"Command Performance" consistently attracted the biggest stars of the day. This episode features Hope and guest star Lena Horne. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 119KB]
"The Goldbergs." Sammy Goes Into the Army. (July 9, 1942)
This pioneering, classic radio program was created, written, produced by and stared Gertrude Berg in the role of Molly Goldberg. It is the second longest running program in radio history (1929-1946) and was later transferred to television. “The Goldbergs”—mother Molly, husband Jake, children Sammy and Rosie—concerned a Jewish immigrant family’s struggle in adapting to the perplexities of American life while also charting their upward progression which mirrored many American families. Along the way, Molly’s malapropisms became famous along with her “yoo-hoo” greeting, her gentle meddling, and her common sense. This episode deals with the shared sacrifices all Americans were making during World War II, and was broadcast live from the middle of New York’s Grand Central Station. As her son, Sammy, boards a train for the Army, Molly comforts another anxious mother with wartime wisdom and touching humanity. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"Artistry in Rhythm." Stan Kenton and His Orchestra. (1943)
That Stan Kenton led a jazz orchestra, not a dance band, is obvious from the first notes of “Artistry in Rhythm.” Though he composed “Artistry” in 1941, Kenton was unable to record it until 1943 because of the ban on recording imposed by the American Federation of Musicians over royalty payments. The music stood out then and its freshness remains obvious to listeners today. This was no smooth, melodic song intended to be played to swaying couples in the big band ballrooms, but a complex, jazz concert piece. Arranged as well as composed by Kenton, “Artistry in Rhythm” exhibits traits that are typical of his work: an aggressive sound, innovative for the layering of one section of the orchestra playing over another, then another layer over both. As one reviewer observed, Kenton’s music “was always controversial, but never sleepy.” Selected for the 2011 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 110KB]
"Oklahoma!" (album). Original cast recording. (1943)
"Oklahoma!" holds the distinction of being the first Broadway "original cast album" to be recorded and marketed by a major company. The 78-rpm disc album was enormously successful and led to the nearly systematic recording of new musicals on Broadway. The cast included Alfred Drake as Curly, Joan Roberts as Laurey, and Celeste Holm as Ado Annie. "Oklahoma!" was also the first major collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Favorites from the score include "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "Surrey with the Fringe on Top," and "People Will Say We're in Love." Selected for the 2003 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 118KB]
“Othello” (album). Paul Robeson, Uta Hagen, Jose Ferrer, and others. (1943)
In the early 1940s, after no U.S. theatre company would cast the African-American actor Paul Robeson in the lead role in Shakespeare’s “Othello,” the actor/singer/activist/lawyer decamped for England where he triumphed in the role in the West End. Upon his 1943 return to the U.S., Robeson was able to assume the role on the Broadway stage. In the production, this multi-talented man with the rich bass voice mesmerized audiences. He and his co-stars, Uta Hagen and José Ferrer, helped make this production the longest-running Shakespearean play in New York theatre history. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Straighten Up and Fly Right." Nat "King" Cole. (1943)
The King Cole Trio, featuring Nat "King" Cole on piano and vocals, is one of most respected small-group ensembles in jazz history. Cole's astonishing technical command of the piano, featuring a deceptively light touch, influenced many great piano virtuosos, including Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. His vocal solo on this recording introduced audiences to his beautifully smooth singing, immaculate diction and liquid style.It launched his career as a one of the most popular singers of the mid-20th century. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Zora Neale Hurston’s appearance on the Mary Margaret McBride program is a unique audio document of this vital African-American writer whose legacy continues to grow. It is also a fine example of McBride’s widely heard and highly influential afternoon radio program at the peak of the host’s fame. As a talk-show host, McBride pioneered the unscripted radio interview. While her interview of Hurston sounds casual and folksy, it is a very informative and focused discussion of Hurston’s recent writings, her early life and education, and her ethnographic field work in Haiti and Jamaica. Selected for the 2008 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 91KB]
Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 23, B-flat Minor. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Vladimir Horowitz, piano; Arturo Toscanini; conductor; NBC Symphony Orchestra. (April 25, 1943)
To promote the purchase of bonds during World War II, Arturo Toscanini and Vladimir Horowitz donated their services for an Easter Sunday afternoon concert, held at Carnegie Hall on April 25, 1943. The performance raised more than $10 million dollars. The second half of the concert was broadcast by NBC. It consisted of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto "The Nutcracker Suite" and the "Star-Spangled Banner." Selected for the 2004 registry.
Debut performance with the New York Philharmonic. Leonard Bernstein. (November 14, 1943)
On November 14, 1943, 25-year-old Leonard Bernstein, then the little known assistant conductor of the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York, made his conducting debut with the ensemble as a last minute substitute in unenviable circumstances. Guest conductor Bruno Walter was sick, regular conductor Artur Rodziński was hundreds of miles away, and the concert was to be broadcast live across the country by CBS Radio. Bernstein met briefly with Walter, but had no time to rehearse. Concertgoers and radio listeners were moved deeply as Bernstein led the orchestra through the program. After the second piece, he was brought back to the podium four times and excitement continued to grow. In Boston, Bernstein’s mentor Serge Koussevitzky dictated a telegram: “Listening now. Wonderful.” Bernstein’s triumph made the front page of the next day’s “New York Times” and was reported across the country. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Down by the Riverside." Sister Rosetta Tharpe. (1944)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, considered to be one of the greatest gospel singers of her generation, merged blues and jazz into her performances and influenced many gospel, jazz and rock artists. She sang at John Hammond's historic 1938 concert, "From Spirituals to Swing," in Carnegie Hall, and was a frequent performer in night clubs as well as before religious groups. "Down by the Riverside" captures her spirited guitar playing and unique vocal style, demonstrating clearly her influence on early rhythm-and-blues performers. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Hottest Women's Band of the 1940s" (album). International Sweethearts of Rhythm. (1944-1946; released 1984)
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was an interracial all‑women jazz band formed in the late 1930’s at the Piney Woods Country Life School, a boarding school for African-American children in Mississippi. The band made very few commercial recordings but toured extensively in the 1940’s, performing in Europe as well as at predominantly African-American theaters and can also be seen in several motion pictures. Professional musicians who joined the band include vocalist Anna Mae Winburn, Viola Burnside on tenor saxophone, and Ernestine “Tiny” Davis on trumpet. Rosetta Records, founded by Rosetta Reitz, was a record label dedicated exclusively to reissuing performances by female jazz and blues artists. Rosetta Records’ International Sweethearts of Rhythm album, released in 1984, includes commercially recorded tracks by the band and excerpts from an appearance on the Armed Forces Radio Service program “Jubilee.” Selected for the 2011 registry.
"This Land is Your Land." Woody Guthrie. (1944)
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 this classic. Guthrie intended the song to be a grassroots response to "God Bless America." Selected for the 2002 registry.
“Uncle Sam Blues.” Oran “Hot Lips” Page, accompanied by Eddie Condon’s Jazz Band. V-Disc . (1944)
During the 1940s, the United States was in the record business. The V-Disc label was created to boost morale by providing recordings of familiar American artists to service camps overseas as well as on the home front. The V-Disc program took on added significance when, owing to a dispute between the record labels and the musicians’ union over royalties, union musicians were forbidden to make commercial recordings. With the understanding that V-Discs would not be sold in the domestic market, the union permitted musicians to contribute their services for free so that some V-Disc releases could include fresh, new performances. Trumpeter Oran “Hot Lips” Page had played with the Bennie Moten Orchestra in Kansas City and was a featured performer with Artie Shaw during 1941-42. Page’s V-Disc recording of the “Uncle Sam Blues,” an ode to military conscription, must have resonated on both the war and home fronts. Selected for the 2008 registry.
D-Day Radio Broadcast. George Hicks. (June 5-6, 1944)
The D-Day invasion was still secret when radio correspondent George Hicks committed his observations of it to a portable film recorder on the deck of a ship carrying troops to the beaches of France. The first official bulletins of the fighting aired in the early morning hours in the United States, but throughout the day the public had little more to go on than the occasional updates and speculation that filled radio airwaves. Hicks’s recording aired late that evening, and when his voice was heard over the din of combat, audiences found it riveting. Highlights were later released on 78-rpm records, and his spontaneous descriptions and composure under fire won him wide praise. Until this point, recordings had only very rarely been used in reporting the news, but as one commentator stated later that week, Hicks’s work showed that they could be “more alive than a ‘live’ program.” Selected for the 2012 registry.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower's D-Day radio address to the Allied Nations. (June 6, 1944)
General Eisenhower's radio address to European citizens on the day of the Allied Normandy Invasion announces the invasion, requests their support, and both promises and foretells liberation. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Jazz at the Philharmonic" (album). (July 2, 1944)
Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) was the title of a series of jazz concerts, tours and recordings produced by Norman Granz between 1944 and 1983. With these concerts, Granz took the concept of the jam session out of the club and brought it to wider audiences via concert halls. The first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert was held on July 2, 1944, in the auditorium of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. It featured many of the foremost jazz musicians of the time, including Charlie Parker, Illinois Jacquet, Nat "King" Cole, Les Paul, Meade Lux Lewis, Buddy Rich, J.J. Johnson, Shorty Sherock, Jack McVea and others. The audience that night heard a wide variety of styles, including Dixieland, Swing, early Bop, and rhythm and blues. With the publication of these selections from this concert, a wide audience was able to experience and enjoy the excitement of ad-hoc ensembles and extended solos common to jam sessions, but rarely heard on published recordings. Selected for the 2010 registry.
The Library of Congress Marine Corps Combat Field Recording Collection, Second Battle of Guam. (July 20-August 11, 1944)
“It’s machine gun fire! Spread out! Spread out…! [O]h, one boy’s been hit…one boy’s hurt now. Four men are putting him in the rubber boat.”
So narrates battle correspondent Alvin Josephy while wading ashore with the first wave of soldiers in the battle to retake Guam on July 21, 1944. This collection owes its existence to the collaboration of Harold Spivacke, chief of the Library of Congress Music Division, and Brigadier General Robert L. Denig to provide war correspondents with recording machines to interview soldiers, record their songs, and document actual battles in the Pacific theater during World War II. While the larger collection includes battle coverage of Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Guadalcanal, the recordings made in Guam feature the most immediate coverage of battle. Among the dozens of recordings made on Guam, listeners can hear firsthand coverage of an officer’s briefing before the invasion, reportage and battle sounds on the morning of the invasion, rare recordings of tank communications, an awards ceremony after the fighting has ended, native opinions of the Japanese occupation, and the personal reactions of the enlisted troops before, during, and after battle. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Caldonia." Louis Jordan. (1945)
Vocalist and alto saxophonist Louis Jordan left the Chick Webb Orchestra in 1938 and started his own small group devoted to the jump blues style. By the mid-1940s he had achieved unparalleled crossover success. Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five scored national hits in the “race,” country and pop markets with their infectious, driving performances of Jordan’s sharp, witty songs, and were an important influence on early rock and roll. “Caldonia,” one of Jordan’s biggest hits, is a swinging, up-tempo, dance tune which may be best remembered for its comedic, shouted punch line, “Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard?” Selected for the 2013 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 109KB]
"Ko Ko." Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and others. (1945)
Charlie Parker (alto sax) was another of jazz's premier improvising soloists. "Ko Ko" signaled the birth of a new era in jazz--bebop. This session for Savoy Records featured Charlie Parker with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Selected for the 2002 registry.
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 his voice. 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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
“Tubby the Tuba” (album) (1945)
The charming musical story of “Tubby” (music by George Kleinsinger, words by Paul Tripp) introduces children to the sounds and roles of orchestral instruments and is one of the most enduring children's recordings ever made. The work was first recorded in 1946 and featured narration by character actor Victor Jory. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"The Fred Allen Show." (October 7, 1945)
Starting on December 13, 1942, "The Fred Allen Show" featured a segment known as "Allen's Alley" in which Allen would stroll along a fictitious alley and meet a colorful cast of characters, including Senator Bloat, Mrs. Pansy Nussbaum and Falstaff Openshaw. One measure of the continuing influence of the show was Warner Bros.' modeling the cartoon rooster Foghorn Leghorn on Senator Claghorn, the blustery Southern politician who was a regular character on "Allen's Alley." This October 7, 1945, broadcast marked the debut of the Senator Claghorn character. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Jole Blon." Harry Choates. (1946)
"Jole Blon," by fiddler Harry Choates, is credited with introducing Cajun music to a national audience and making that genre a significant component of country music. Choates is known to many as the "Godfather of Cajun Music" and as the "Fiddle King of Cajun Swing." "Jole Blon," recorded for the Gold Star label, quickly became a country charts hit, the first Cajun song to make the top 10. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"U. S. Highball (A Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip)" (album). Harry Partch; Gate 5 Ensemble. (1946)
Harry Partch, American composer and instrument maker, said his music was "based on a monophonic system of acoustic intervals and an expandable source scale of more than 40 notes to the so-called scale." He was known for his adaptation and invention of instruments including the chromelodeon, the chordophone, the kitchara, the harmonic canon and the bloboys. "U.S. Highball (A Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip)" for chorus and instruments was first performed at Carnegie Hall in 1944. It is an account of a freight train ride from California to Chicago, part of a larger body of work that Partch composed after traveling the country. Selected for the 2004 registry.
“Sinews of Peace" (Iron Curtain speech). Speech by Winston Churchill. (March 5, 1946)
Lamenting the deepening shadow of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Eastern Europe and fearing Soviet-directed, fifth-column activities in the West, Winston Churchill delivered this opening salvo of the Cold War at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. The speech heralds an increasingly widespread feeling in the West that a tougher stance was needed toward Russia, a departure following the positive image that the country enjoyed as a wartime ally in World War II. Churchill famously pronounced that “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” Selected for the 2008 registry.
Bach B-Minor Mass (album). Robert Shaw Chorale. (1947)
Robert Shaw, one of the most successful and influential choral conductors in the United States, led his newly-formed chorale in this 1947 recording of Bach's B-Minor Mass. Shaw's use of relatively small forces for this Baroque masterpiece was novel at the time. It influenced subsequent performances and contributed to the trend toward more "authenticity" in the performance practice of early music. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Blue Moon of Kentucky." Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. (1947)
This recording of the bluegrass standard by its composer, "The Father of Bluegrass," mandolinist Bill Monroe, is the song's earliest recording. "Blue Moon of Kentucky" has since been recorded by many other musicians, including Elvis Presley on his Sun Sessions. Presley's version was such a hit that Monroe later revised his performance to reflect Presley's influence. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 133KB]
"Call It Stormy Monday But Tuesday is Just As Bad." T-Bone Walker. (1947)
The first recording of this blues standard was made by the Black and White label in Los Angeles on September 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. Over the years the song has been 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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
“The Churkendoose.” Ray Bolger. (1947)
"The Churkendoose" is a children’s tale of tolerance, compassion and diversity, written by Ben Ross Berenberg for his daughter. The recording features the voice of Ray Bolger, music composed by Alec Wilder, and a supporting cast of farm animals. The Churkendoose, a creature who is part chicken, turkey, duck and goose, didn’t fit in at the farm. Rejected and ridiculed, he became a hero by saving the other animals from the fox. Ultimately, the animals embrace the Churkendoose and learn a valuable lesson about acceptance. Selected for the 2008 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 182KB]
"Four Saints in Three Acts" (album). "Original" cast recording. (1947)
Virgil Thomson's opera, "Four Saints in Three Acts," is generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest of American operas. Its libretto was written by Gertrude Stein. Selections from the opera were recorded in 1947 by RCA Victor with many of the original cast members and Thomson conducting the orchestra and choir. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"The Four Seasons" (album). Louis Kaufman and the Concert Hall String Orchestra. (1947)
Louis Kaufman was one of the most recorded violinists of the 20th century with a brilliant career performing both film and classical music. His 1947 recording of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" with the Concert Hall Orchestra conducted by Henry Swoboda, was the first LP recording of the work. Kaufman's performance would play a pivotal role in the revival of baroque music and interest in performance practice of early music. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Hula Medley." Gabby Pahinui. (1947)
Gabby Pahinui was a master of slack key guitar, a style originating in Hawaii. In slack key, one or more of a guitar’s strings are loosened or “slacked” from the standard EADGBE format to create a different tuning, usually a chord that allows it to be played without using the fretboard. Often the thumb plays rhythm on the lower strings, while the fingers play the melody on the higher strings. Pahinui made some of the first modern recordings in this genre, including the lovely instrumental “Hula Medley” in 1947. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Just Because." Frank Yankovic & His Yanks. (1947)
As a child in Ohio in the 1920s, Frank Yankovic learned to play music of his parents’ Slovenian homeland on the accordion. By the 1930s though, Yankovic was playing in the polka style popular in Cleveland, a lightfooted and energetic fusion that incorporated influences from various Germanic and Eastern European traditions. Yankovic added flavoring from Italian, pop, jazz and other styles to this mix and experimented with the instrumentation as he built audiences. This eclectic approach served him well at his first major label recording session, when he insisted on recording “Just Because,” a country and western song of more than a decade earlier. Driven by the bright and melodic twin accordion leads of Yankovic and Johnny Pecon, and the jazzy inflection and syncopations of Hank Bokal’s drumming and Georgie Cook’s Dixieland tenor banjo, the pop and ethnic fusion of “Just Because” reached a national audience, and established Yankovic as polka’s top artist and innovator. Selected for the 2012 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 77KB]
"Manteca." Dizzy Gillespie Big Band with Chano Pozo. (1947)
Latin jazz, sometimes called Afro–Cuban jazz, incorporates jazz improvisation with Cuban rhythms. The music strongly emphasizes percussion, using congas, timbales and bongos to supplement piano, guitar or vibes with horns and vocals. A pioneer of this pulsating, infectious sound was Dizzy Gillespie, who was greatly influenced by Chano Pozo, a Cuban singer and drummer. Performing with Gillespie for the first time in 1947, Pozo joined Gillespie's bebop big band and composed "Manteca" with him, later recording it for RCA Victor. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Indians for Indians." (March 25, 1947)
Originated by Don Whistler (a.k.a. Chief Kesh-ke-kosh), “The Indians for Indians Hour” was a radio show aired on WNAD at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma from 1941 until 1985. It was a weekly venue for Native American music and cultural exchange featuring guests and music from 18 tribes reached by the station’s signal, including: Apache, Arapaho, Caddo, Cheyenne, Choctaw, Comanche, Kaw, Kiowa, Osage, Oto, Pawnee, Ponca, Seminole, Shawnee, and Wichita. Whistler allowed only-Indian music and no non-Indian guests unless they worked for Indian Services. This program, one of 320 known to survive, includes news of a recent pow wow and songs praising Indian war veterans sung by a group of Kiowa war mothers. Though the program was sometimes criticized for highlighting music and entertainment instead of issues, it nevertheless served as an important tool for generational sharing and the popularization and preservation of Native American culture. In 1946, “Indians for Indians” reached an estimated weekly audience of over 75,000, almost all of Native American origin. Whistler hosted the show until his death in 1951. Later hosts included Allen Quetone, Mose Poolaw, Clyde Warrior, Clyde Warrior, and Boyce Timmons. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Boogie Chillen'.” John Lee Hooker. (1948)
This first hit for the largely self-taught John Lee Hooker showcases his take on the Delta blues. Hooker was born in Coahoma County, Mississippi, spent his early years in Memphis and eventually moved to Detroit. The R&B label Modern released the infectiously rhythmic track after Hooker’s manager presented them with a demo. While the song’s instrumentation is simple, featuring only vocal, guitar and the tapping of Hooker’s foot, the driving rhythm and confessional lyrics have guaranteed its place as an influential and enduring blues classic. Selected for the 2008 registry.
“Evangeline Special” and “Love Bridge Waltz.” Iry LeJeune. (1948)
The post-World War II revival of traditional Cajun music began with accordionist Iry LeJeune’s first single, his influential recordings of “Evangeline Special” and “Love Bridge Waltz.” LeJeune’s emotional and deeply personal style was immensely popular with Louisiana Cajuns returning home from the war, eager to hear their own music again. His recordings marked a distinct turn away from the Western-Swing influenced style that had dominated commercial Cajun recordings for over a decade and a return to the older sound of Cajun music featuring the accordion and unrestrained, blues-influenced singing. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"I Can Hear It Now: 1933-1945" (album). Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly. (1948)
“I Can Hear It Now” was an unlikely hit: a collection of speech excerpts and news reports from 1933 to 1945 featuring a wide array of speakers, from Will Rogers to Adolph Hitler. Columbia Records gambled on radio producer Fred Friendly’s idea when a musicians’ strike limited the recording of new music. Friendly, later president of CBS News, spent months locating and copying 100 hours of broadcast disc recordings, using newly introduced magnetic recording tape to create compelling montages. CBS Radio’s Edward R. Murrow added star power as narrator and co-writer. “I Can Hear It Now” found Americans eager to relive their own history, and sold briskly on 78-rpm discs and in Columbia’s new LP format. The ease of editing and recording on magnetic tape facilitated creating portions of the album that are now controversial, such as the fabrication of a break-in announcement of the Pearl Harbor attack, and the rerecording of a newscast to replace a damaged original. However, the recording was widely imitated and Friendly and Murrow produced two sequels, along with radio and television spinoffs. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Ives Piano Sonata No. 2 ("Concord Sonata") (album). John Kirkpatrick. (1948)
John Kirkpatrick, eminent pianist and energetic promoter of American music, premiered Charles Ives' "Concord Sonata" in 1939. His performance of the technically-demanding work earned enthusiastic reviews for both Ives and Kirkpatrick and led to Kirkpatrick's recording of the work. Now considered one of the most original of American composers, Ives' works changed the direction of American music. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Move On Up a Little Higher." Mahalia Jackson. (1948)
This recording was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson's breakthrough disc, a bestseller that appealed equally to black and white audiences and reputedly became the bestselling gospel release of the time. In her performance, Jackson blends the vocal styles of blues singers, such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, with the heartfelt emotion and commitment common to traditional gospel singing. Her recordings helped to make gospel music popular with racially and reiligously diverse audiences. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"The Jack Benny Program." (March 28, 1948.)
Jack Benny's career started in vaudeville but he soon mastered other show business formats, including radio, television and motion pictures. Benny is best remembered as the parsimonious straight man to his regular cast of characters on radio and television. In a skit broadcast in 1948, Benny was held up by a thief. When asked by the robber, "Your money or your life," Benny paused and eventually replied, "I'm thinking it over." Selected for the 2004 registry.
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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. (1949)
Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, made this influential recording for Mercury Records on December 11, 1949, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first of many instrumental hits featuring Scrugg's three-finger banjo picking style, it has set benchmarks for generations of banjo players and bluegrass performers. The 1949 recording of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" was famously featured as chase music in the 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde." Selected for the 2004 registry.
"The Jazz Scene" (album). Various artists. (1949)
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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"The Little Engine That Could." Paul Wing, narrator. (1949)
This classic story of optimism and determination is beloved by several generations of Americans. The charming story is climaxed by the mantra “I think I can – I think I can – I think I can …” chanted in a chugging rhythm as the little blue engine successfully climbs over the mountain to bring a train full of toys to waiting children. Paul Wing’s cheerful reading and the recording's rich sound effects make this version of the story the most fondly remembered of many recorded interpretations. Selected for the 2009 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 228KB]
"Lovesick Blues." Hank Williams. (1949)
This career-making record became Hank Williams' first number one hit and propelled him from regional success to national stardom. It was this recording which led to Williams being invited to perform on the "Grand Ole Opry." At his first appearance, the "Opry" audience demanded six encores of the song's yodeled closing. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"South Pacific" (album). Original cast recording. (1949)
Acclaimed as one of Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein II’s greatest musicals, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “South Pacific” also has achieved landmark status in recorded sound history. Although the long-playing record (LP) was launched in 1948, sales did not take off until the next year, when Columbia Records released the original cast recording of “South Pacific” in both 78-rpm and LP formats. “South Pacific” became one of the best-selling records in the industry’s history and initiated a bidding war among record companies for the rights to record original cast albums. The show brought the subject of racial prejudice to a mainstream audience, and through the album, its message spread beyond Broadway to millions of American living rooms during the years in which the modern civil rights movement was spreading. Record producer Goddard Lieberson saw the show fourteen times while preparing the album, but realized that the most important decisions occurred in the recording studio itself. “It is there that ingenuity must substitute heightened musical effects for the action and scenery of the theatre,” he insisted. Lieberson’s goal to create during the recording session “the elusive quality of atmosphere” became the model for many great cast albums that followed “South Pacific.” Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Guys & Dolls" (album). Original cast recording. (1950)
The Broadway musical fable "Guys & Dolls" is considered to be one of the greatest musical comedies every produced. It features a masterful score by Frank Loesser as well as an excellent book based on the short stories of Damon Runyon. The recording by its original cast preserves aurally many definitive performances of the show's musical treasures, most notably those by Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Leon Metcalf Collection of recordings of the First People of western Washington State. (1950-1954)
Metcalf, a logger, musician, and music instructor with a life-long interest in languages, documented songs, stories, and other narratives from native speakers in the Puget Sound region and neighboring areas. He used one of the earliest commercially available tape recorders. Among the many individuals he recorded were Ruth Shelton, Susie Sampson Peter, Annie Daniels, Martha Lamont, Willy Gus, Martin Sampson, Silas Heck, Harry Moses, Hal George, Amy Allen, and Joseph Hillaire. The Metcalf recordings not only document the voices of many native speakers, they also include unique content due to Metcalf’s practice of giving his consultants free rein during recording sessions. They often recorded personal messages to one another, providing a rare aural documentation of conversational practice, and several told lengthy myth narratives that filled several reels of tape. The revival of interest in Lushootseed language and literature and, in particular, the work of Upper Skagit elder Vi Hilbert, owes much to this collection, which has been the source of material for language instruction projects and numerous publications since the 1970s. The collection is located at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Dust My Broom." Elmore James. (1951)
Several versions of “Dust My Broom” had been released by 1951 when Elmore James made this landmark 78-rpm recording for the Trumpet label. Though the song wasn’t new, his sound was. James replaced the acoustic, solo blues of Robert Johnson with an electric blues band. James is known to have tinkered with his guitar pickups and fans still argue about how he achieved his signature sound. Whatever combination of guitar and pickup was used in his slide guitar opening, Elmore James created the most recognizable guitar riff in the history of the blues. The influence of “Dust My Broom” has been widespread and long-lasting. Many blues and rock artists has since covered “Dust My Broom” in the Elmore James arrangement, including Hound Dog Taylor, J.B. Hutto, and the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, featuring slide guitar by Jeremy Spencer. James later recorded “Dust My Broom” for other labels, often under different titles including “Dust My Blues” or “I Believe,” but his signature treatment of the song began with this 1951 Trumpet version. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"How High the Moon." Les Paul and Mary Ford. (1951)
This exciting performance introduced over-dubbing recording techniques to the public and paved the way for studio production processes still in use today. Selected for the 2002 registry.
“Peace in the Valley.” Red Foley and the Sunshine Boys. (1951)
“Peace in the Valley” was originally written in 1939 by Thomas A. Dorsey for Mahalia Jackson, but as performed by Red Foley and the Sunshine Boys, it becomes an affecting expression of devotion in the Southern gospel music style. At the time of this recording, Clyde Julian “Red” Foley was a recording star for Decca Records and was host of the half-hour NBC network segment of the “Grand Ole Opry.” This blending of Foley's calm baritone with the close harmony of the vocal quartet resulted in the first gospel recording to sell one million copies. Selected for the 2006 registry.
“Pictures at an Exhibition” (album). Rafael Kubelik, conductor; Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (1951)
Prior to this LP, the first of Mercury's noted “Living Presence” series, orchestras were recorded by a variety of multiple microphone methods, all with artificial balances and few with concert hall ambience. This recording of the Mussorgsky masterpiece, recorded with a single Neumann U47 suspended above and behind the conductor, was revolutionary in that for the first time the recorded balance was that of the orchestra, not of a technician. This recording is of such merit that many believe that the technical methodology it displays has not been improved upon to this day. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Pope Marcellus Mass" (Palestrina). The Roger Wagner Chorale. (1951)
The Roger Wagner Chorale, established in 1947, initially specialized in madrigals of the 16th and 17th centuries. In this early recording by the Chorale, the ensemble performs with rhythmic precision and tonal opulence, inviting listeners to experience the rich beauty of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s 1562 mass. Selected for the 2010 registry.
After President Harry S. Truman relieved General Douglas A. MacArthur of duty for a series of public statements that urged the invasion of China and hinted that the President was practicing appeasement, MacArthur was invited to address a joint session of Congress. In spite of the controversy surrounding him, MacArthur speech is noted for its eloquence and effectiveness. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Anthology of American Folk Music" (album). Harry Smith, editor. (1952)
The "Harry Smith Anthology," compiled for Folkways Records from obscure, commercially released 78-rpm discs originally recorded between 1926 and 1934, brought a variety of neglected and virtually forgotten genres of American music to the public's attention. The anthology was drawn from the personal record collection of the independent filmmaker and record collector Harry Smith, who also annotated and illustrated the set. It includes country, blues, hillbilly tunes, Cajun social music, Appalachian murder ballads and other genres of American music rarely heard on record in the early 1950s. The LP set was widely influential and played a seminal role in the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s. Selected for the 2005 registry.
“A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Dylan Thomas. (1952)
Part nostalgic childhood remembrance and part poetic incantation, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” was issued with five of Dylan Thomas’ poems on Caedmon Records’ first release. According to the label’s co-founder Barbara Holdridge, Thomas arrived in the studio with insufficient material to fill an entire LP, but he remembered writing a Christmas story for "Harper’s Bazaar." Holdridge and her business partner, Marianne Roney, were able to identify the piece as “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and obtained a copy from the magazine. It became one of Caedmon’s most successful releases and has been credited with launching the audiobook industry in the United States. “We had no idea of the power and beauty of this voice,” Holdridge said of Thomas’ reading, “We just expected a poet with a poet’s voice, but this was a full orchestral voice.” Selected for the 2008 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 104KB]
Chopin Polonaise, Op. 40, no. 1 (“Polonaise Militaire”). Artur Rubinstein. (1952)
The names of Artur Rubinstein and Frederic Chopin are inextricably linked in the minds of at least two generations of 20th-century music lovers. At the heart of the bond between pianist and composer is their shared Polish heritage, and nowhere is the connection so great as in Rubinstein’s interpretation of the Polonaise in A Major, Op. 40, No. 1, known as the “Military Polonaise.” Rubinstein supplied the iconic reading of this revered, often-recorded work. The combination of strength and heart-felt poetry is a hallmark of Rubinstein’s playing in this piece, and it stirred the souls of patriots—of all nationalities—during the German occupation of Poland. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." Kitty Wells. (1952)
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’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” argues that wayward men are to blame when women stray. Wells’ 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 musicians. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Let's Go Out to the Programs." The Dixie Hummingbirds. (1953)
At the time of its release, “Let’s Go Out to the Programs” was considered to be a novelty, but it now stands as a celebration of a golden age of African-American gospel music. In the fifties, high-energy quartets and quintets like the Dixie Hummingbirds played multi-artist shows known as "programs," where several top gospel acts pushed each other to the limit. Led by the legendary Ira Tucker, the Hummingbirds recreate such a program in less than three minutes with striking but good-natured imitations of four gospel groups: the Soul Stirrers (with their young lead singer, Sam Cooke), the Blind Boys of Mississippi, the Pilgrim Travelers, and the Bells of Joy. The Dixie Hummingbirds continue to perform today, led by Ira Tucker, Jr.; younger singers carry on the legacy of the Soul Stirrers, while original members of the Bells of Joy still sing in their home of Austin, Texas. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 112KB]
"The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest." Rev. C.L. Franklin. (1953)
Long before his daughter Aretha attained stardom in the 1960s, Rev. C.L. Franklin (1915-1984) was a recording star in his own right, with dozens of his riveting sermons reaching an audience well beyond his New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Mich. African-American entrepreneur Joe Von Battle, whose record shop was only a few blocks from Franklin’s church, recorded Franklin’s sermon "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest" and released it on three 78-rpm discs on his JVB label in 1953. In the sermon, Franklin draws his text from the Book of Deuteronomy and expounds on the parallels between "God and the eagle." He builds to a thunderously emotional climax before his very enthusiastic and vocal congregation. Franklin's many and varied vocal devices inspired not only other preachers, but also gospel and rhythm-and-blues artists who appropriated many of his techniques. Franklin was a national figure in the African-American community from the 1950s on and a close friend and ally of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Selected for the 2010 registry.
This popular album of satiric songs started as a campus hit at Harvard University where Lehrer was a graduate student in mathematics and a regular area performer. Lehrer has said that he recorded it for $15 for release to his Harvard audience. But despite its minuscule budget, it sold an estimated 370,000 copies. Among the prominent comedians to have claimed Lehrer as an influence are Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Weird Al Yankovic. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 91KB]
"Tipitina." Professor Longhair. (1953)
Pianist Henry Roeland Byrd (1918-1980), aka "Professor Longhair," was a pivotal figure in New Orleans rhythm-and-blues although he attained little success outside the city before the 1970s. His music was a classic New Orleans fusion of blues figures, parade-band cadences, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms and melodies that he worked into dense, but light-fingered piano lines, and topped off with his merrily idiosyncratic singing, whistling and scatting. Although Byrd’s 1953 recording of "Tipitina" had little impact outside of his hometown, it was a signature distillation of the musical ideas and personality that inspired and influenced such New Orleans pianists as Fats Domino, Huey "Piano" Smith, James Booker, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"Also Sprach Zarathustra." Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (1954)
Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” was recorded several times during the 78‑rpm era but had to wait for magnetic tape, superior microphones, and advances in disc mastering for its extremely wide dynamics to be fully captured as recorded sound. The dawn of high fidelity recording happily coincided with the beginning of the Fritz Reiner era at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, when the ensemble was hailed by Igor Stravinsky as “the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world.” One of Reiner’s first recordings with the CSO, “Zarathustra,” was taped simultaneously in mono and stereo by two RCA Victor teams, though only the mono version was initially issued. The album’s 1958 release in RCA’s Living Stereo line a few years later showed just how great the recording and performance were, with the perspective and balance Reiner drew from the orchestra fully revealed. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Damnation of Faust" (album). Boston Symphony Orchestra with the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society. (1954)
Recorded in Boston's Symphony Hall on February 21 and 22, 1954, this live performance of Berlioz's "dramatic legend" was recorded through a single condenser microphone suspended 17 feet above the conductor's podium, with one auxiliary microphone enlisted occasionally to strengthen the chorus. Conductor Charles Munch, considered one of the great interpreters of Berlioz, leads the Boston orchestra with assistance from G. Wallace Woodworth directing the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society. Soloists include Suzanne Danco, David Poleri, Martial Singher and Donald Gramm. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)." The Penguins. (1954)
Released as a "B-side," this doo-wop ballad quickly garnered enormous popularity and became one of the first recordings to cross over. It climbed to the number three position on the rhythm-and-blues charts and reached number eight on the pop charts. "Billboard" has termed the single of this song the "top R&B record of all time" measured by continuous popular appeal. The Penguins, a vocal group from Los Angeles that formed in 1954, featured high-school friends Cleveland Duncan (lead), Dexter Tisby (tenor), Bruce Tate (baritone), and Curtis Williams (bass). The recording was released on DooTone, a black-owned and operated label. Selected for the 2004 registry.
“A Festival of Lessons and Carols as Sung on Christmas Eve in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge” (album). King’s College Choir; Boris Ord, director. (1954)
The annual Festival of Lessons and Carols by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, was introduced in 1918 to bring a new, imaginative approach to worship. The British Broadcasting Corporation began broadcasting the festival in 1928 and included it in the BBC’s overseas shortwave schedule starting in the early 1930s. Organist and choirmaster Boris Ord, who conducted the service most years between 1929 and 1957, is highly respected for the standards of musical excellence that he elicited from the choir. This 1954 Argo recording, published in the U.S. by Westminster Records, provided most Americans with their first opportunity to experience this beloved Christmas tradition, which has since become a seasonal mainstay in many American churches. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man." Muddy Waters. (1954)
Originally recorded in 1941 for the Library of Congress by Alan Lomax on a recording expedition through Mississippi, Muddy Waters went on to become an exemplar of Chicago's electric, urban blues style. "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," written by Chess Records mainstay Willie Dixon, was one of Waters' hits. It features a tight band with Dixon on bass, Little Walter on harmonica, Otis Span on piano, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, and Fred Below on drums. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Problems of the American Home" (album). Billy Graham. (1954)
Billy Graham began preaching, after attending Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College) and Wheaton College, for the local Youth for Christ organization in 1945. The rallies he organized impressed many leaders in the Christian evangelical community. He came into national prominence in 1949 with the launch of his crusades to major U.S. cities and around the world. For the next five decades, Graham built his following in person and later via television, becoming a major religious, social, and political figure. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"A Night at Birdland (Volumes 1 and 2)" (albums). Art Blakey. (1954)
Art Blakey, through his energetic drumming and inspiring leadership, helped solidify bebop and hard bop’s mid-‘50s takeover of the jazz mainstream. “A Night at Birdland” documents the inspired, high-energy live performances of Blakey and this early incarnation of the Jazz Messengers which included co-leader Horace Silver, Clifford Brown and Lou Donaldson. The momentum that drives these performances comes from Blakey--his flawless timing and energy on the drums which pushes Brown and Donaldson to soar to new improvisational heights on their solos. Meanwhile, Silver’s bluesy approach to piano revolutionized small group jazz playing. All together, the ensemble became the architects of a new, modern musical language, one that is fully captured on this recording. Selected for the 2013 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 193KB]
"Songs for Young Lovers" (album). Frank Sinatra. (1954)
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Sun Records sessions. Elvis Presley. (1954-1955)
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." Selected for the 2002 registry.
"At Sunset" (album). Mort Sahl. (1955)
"At Sunset" is an early live recording of the influential satirist and stand-up comedian Mort Sahl. Sahl’s comedy is typified by a conversational style, thoroughly grounded in up-to-the-minute topics and events, and is replete with satiric asides and smart, subtle punch lines. Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce are among the many comics who were influenced by Sahl. His approach to comedy became a staple on television and at comedy clubs for decades. This album, Sahl’s second release but earliest recording, had not been authorized and was later withdrawn. "At Sunset" nevertheless retains the distinction of being the first recording of modern stand-up comedy. Selected for the 2010 registry.
“Blue Suede Shoes.” Carl Perkins. (1955)
Carl Perkins was one of the pioneers of rockabilly, the up-tempo fusion of country-western music and rhythm and blues. His aggressive vocal stylizations, backed by electric lead guitar, slapping string bass and drums, were of immediate appeal to the burgeoning teenage population of the mid-1950s. Due to an extended recovery from a serious car crash, Perkins never gained the popularity of his contemporary Elvis Presley, yet this first-generation rocker’s driving style maintains its rebellious allure more than 50 years after its creation. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Bo Diddley" and "I'm a Man." Bo Diddley. (1955)
Born Elias Otha Bates in Mississippi in 1928, Bo Diddley acquired his stage name after moving to Chicago as a child. He played guitar locally with a small group, drawing inspiration from the polyrhythmic song and music emanating from storefront churches, a pulsing blend that he distilled into the song “Bo Diddley,” the A-side of his first single. Drummer Clifton James played the defining beat, and Bo’s guitar and Jerome Greene’s maracas added further rhythmic layers beneath the chanted couplets. Having introduced himself, he threw down the gauntlet on the B-side, “I’m a Man,” a throbbing slow blues that, as simple as it seems, took nearly thirty takes to get down just right. It was also a major hit, and inspired Muddy Waters’ answer song, “Manish Boy.” Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Goldberg Variations" (album). Glenn Gould. (1955)
Following his landmark 1955 recording of J.S. Bach's "Aria with 30 Variations," also known as the "Goldberg Variations," Glenn Gould's name has been inextricably linked with this masterful work that concludes Bach's 1742 set of keyboard exercises, the "Clavierübung." Gould is remembered as a remarkable, eccentric pianist with a unique, studied yet emotional approach to performance. The "Goldberg Variations" is the only work Gould chose to record a second time; the second recording being made in 1981, shortly before his death. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Tuskegee Institute Choir Sings Spirituals" (album). William L. Dawson, director. (1955)
This recording is significant not only for its powerful performances but also because it presents William L. Dawson's arrangements of spirituals which are still widely used by choirs today. Booker T. Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute Choir in 1887. Through tours, recordings and broadcasting, the choir reached international fame under the direction of Dawson, who led the choir from 1931 to 1955. Selected for the 2004 registry.
“Tutti Frutti.” Little Richard. (1955)
In 1955, when he entered Cosimo Matassa’s New Orleans studio, 22 year-old “Little Richard” Penniman was a seasoned rhythm and blues performer but an unsuccessful recording artist in search of a breakthrough hit. At first, there seemed to be scant rapport between Richard and the other musicians, and a frustrating session ensued. Not until Richard started extemporizing verses of “Tutti Frutti,” a risqué feature of his club sets, did the music catch fire. Even in the less-suggestive version that was eventually released, Little Richard’s unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"When I Stop Dreaming." The Louvin Brothers. (1955)
The Louvin Brothers were almost defiantly out of step with the country music world of the mid-50s. Ira’s high lonesome leads and Charlie’s high tenor descants were the sounds of an earlier era, but they were well served by modern recording techniques which captured every nuance of their harmonies. “When I Stop Dreaming,” an almost fatalistic song of lost love that they wrote, was their commercial breakthrough, and the first of a series of classic recordings they made over the next eight years, until the termination of their musical partnership in 1963. Selected for the 2013 registry.
Representative the Edward D. Ives Collection held at the Maine Folklife Center, University of Maine, Orono, Maine, and the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Folklorist Edward D. “Sandy” Ives, author of “The Tape-Recorded Interview” and many other influential publications, met with 75-year-old Billy Bell in 1956 and in the discussion discovered the Northwoods singing style. These occupational songs of lumbering, driving and woods traditions, based on British broadside ballads, were sung by second-generation Canadian-Irish workers who originally came from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia farms and were part of the Maine lumbering workforce. Ives’ initial interview with Bell was his first encounter with these narrative songs, songs that illuminated a tradition extending from Maine to Minnesota, from Newfoundland to northern Ontario. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Blueberry Hill." Fats Domino. (1956)
Domino's relaxed-tempo R&B version of "Blueberry Hill" was inspired by Louis Armstrong's 1940 rendition. The singer's New Orleans roots are evident in the Creole inflected cadences that added richness and depth to the performance. Recorded in Los Angeles for Imperial records, Domino insisted on performing the song despite the reservations of his producer. The wisdom of this choice is borne out by the enduring association of the song with Domino, despite a number other popular versions. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Brilliant Corners" (album). Thelonious Monk. (1956)
Thelonious Monk displays his compositional genius and idiosyncratic, but indeed brilliant, piano style in the monumental "Brilliant Corners" of 1956. Monk's thorny and challenging original pieces would form a basis of the modern jazz repertoire. They are brought to life with the assistance of Ernie Henry, alto sax; Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Oscar Pettiford, bass; Max Roach, drums; Clark Terry, trumpet; and Paul Chambers, bass. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book" (album). Ella Fitzgerald. (1956)
Ella Fitzgerald, "The First Lady of Song," will be long appreciated for her beautiful voice, thoughtful lyric interpretation, imaginative scat singing, and impeccable enunciation. "The Cole Porter Song Book," a two-LP set, is the first of her many anthologies devoted to the pantheon of American popular song composers and lyricists. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Interviews with Jazz musicians for the Voice of America. Willis Conover. (1956)
From 1954 until his death in 1996, Willis Conover (1920-1996) hosted thousands of jazz programs for the Voice of America radio service, broadcasting to countries where jazz was rarely heard or even allowed. Ironically, although Conover was barely known in his own country, American jazz musicians knew and appreciated his efforts on their behalf, and were frequent guests on his programs. In 1956, Conover presented a series of interviews with some of the greatest jazz artists of the era, including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Stan Getz, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman and Art Tatum. The Tatum interview is the only known in-depth recorded interview with the pianist; he died later that year. For many, these interviews were a first chance to hear the thoughts of great jazz artists who had come of age with the music itself, as they shared their reflections, opinions and predictions with Conover. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"My Fair Lady" (album). Original cast recording. (1956)
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 cost 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 of its release. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Roll Over Beethoven." Chuck Berry. (1956)
Chuck Berry has been described as "the closest one to have invented rock and roll." As a composer, he is responsible for many of early rock music's best compositions. His recorded songs are marked by his influential, driving guitar work and clever lyrics. Berry's music was a witty challenge to contemporary pop music, and in this instance, the classics as well. "Roll Over Beethoven" has been covered by many bands including the Beatles, who along with the Rolling Stones, have always acknowledged their debt to Berry. Selected for the 2003 registry.
“Smokestack Lightning.” Howlin’ Wolf. (1956)
The derivation of Chester Arthur Burnett’s stage name, “Howlin’ Wolf,” is evident in “Smokestack Lightning.” The blues lyric has no narrative; instead Wolf howls as he grasps for words to express his romantic torment. Guitarist and collaborator Hubert Sumlin plays the song’s signature bending, sliding riff. “Smokestack Lightning” influenced the swampy sound of Dale Hawkins’ “Susie Q” and, later, music of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Critic Cub Koda observed, Howlin’ Wolf could “... rock the house down to the foundation while ... scaring its patrons out of [their] wits.” No song better exhibits this than “Smokestack Lightning.” Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Variations for Orchestra" (album). Louisville Orchestra. (1956)
Representative of the First Edition Recordings series. "Variations for Orchestra" by Elliot Carter is one of many works commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra under its Rockefeller Foundation-funded program to commission, premiere and record 20th century classical music. Premiering on April 21, 1956, with Robert S. Whitney conducting, "Variations for Orchestra" was recorded the next month. From 1954 through 1959, the Louisville Orchestra commissioned and performed 116 works from 101 composers, issuing 125 long-playing discs on its First Edition Recordings label, the first recording label owned by an American orchestra. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Descargas: Cuban Jam Session in Miniature" (album). Cachao Y Su Ritmo Caliente. (1957)
Inspired by the all-star jam sessions that Norman Granz organized and recorded for his Jazz at the Philharmonic series, Cuban bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez, already a giant of Afro-Cuban music, sought to accomplish something similar with his peers in Havana. He brought musicians into the studio for two early morning sessions, when they were still fully charged up from their evening’s work in nightclubs and ballrooms. Rather than record long form jams, as Granz had done, the twelve musicians Cachao recruited created twelve short, spontaneous “miniature” pieces, each of which highlighted key instruments and facets of Afro-Cuban music. The resulting fusion blended African, European and American influences seamlessly. “Descargas”has had a lasting impact on Latin music, especially on the Salsa style that emerged in the 1960s, and Cachao organized many similar sessions for further albums both in Cuba and in the United States, where he settled after the Cuban revolution. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"That'll Be the Day." The Crickets. (1957)
Buddy Holly had actually recorded an earlier version of this song with a more country-and-western feel than the hit version that Brunswick Records released later. In an era when performers were not necessarily songwriters, Buddy Holly and the Crickets wrote most of their own material, including this well-remembered number. Holly's fellow songwriters were drummer Jerry Allison and bassist Joe B. Mauldin who also provided the rhythm section for the group. Selected for the 2005 registry.
“West Side Story” (album). Original cast recording. (1957)
While there are over 40 recordings of the score to the Broadway show “West Side Story” in various languages and styles, the original cast recording is in many ways unequaled. Bernstein’s music—with its Latin, jazz, rock and classical influences—was arguably the most demanding score heard on Broadway up to that point. Boasting Stephen Sondheim’s first lyrics for a Broadway musical, the songs range from the passionate love song “Tonight,” through the social satire of “America” and “Gee, Officer Krupke,” to the hopeful anthem “Somewhere.” Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." Jerry Lee Lewis. (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis' second release for Sun Records included this lively number that launched the performer to international popularity. A reworking of an R&B single penned by Roy Hall (a.k.a. Sunny David) and Dave Williams, Lewis radically altered the original, adding a propulsive boogie piano that was perfectly complemented by the drive of J.M. Van Eaton's energetic drumming. Listeners to the recording, like Lewis himself, often had a hard time remaining seated during the performance. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 71KB]
Navajo Shootingway Ceremony field recordings. (1957-1958)
Representative of the David McAllester Collection. What may be the only recordings of this deeply sacred Navajo healing ceremony were recorded by ethnomusicologist David McAllester in Arizona in the late 1950s. 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, and 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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
Steam locomotive recordings. O. Winston Link. (1957-1977)
O. Winston Link, a commercial photographer, was also a passionate admirer of trains. His well-known photographic essays documented the rich history of steam locomotives. Link also captured sounds and moving images of these trains. His first album of recordings, released in 1957, includes the sounds of Y6, K2, and J class locomotives, and a J603 locomotive passing by church bells play Christmas carols. Link's recordings captured the unique and now-lost sounds of the engines which united the United States. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Dance Mania" (album). Tito Puente. (1958)
Bandleader/instrumentalist Tito Puente is considered to be a Renaissance man of Latin music. The very best of New York City's 1950s Latin jazz scene is heard on this landmark album of 1958. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Messiah" (album). Eugene Ormandy, conductor; Richard Condie, choir director; Mormon Tabernacle Choir; Philadelphia Orchestra. (1958)
The association between the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one of the best known choral organizations in the United States, and the Philadelphia Orchestra dates back to 1936. This best-selling recording of Handel's oratorio was made during a 1958 choir concert tour. It features Eileen Farrell, Martha Lipton, William Warfield and Cunningham Davis. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"The Music from 'Peter Gunn'" (album). Henry Mancini. (1958)
The suave detective as lead character in a television program was novel when the "Peter Gunn" series debuted in 1958. To emphasize the cool, sophisticated personality of the private eye, played by Craig Stevens, composer Henry Mancini wrote jazz-inflected instrumental themes. The renowned opening theme features a driving, and catchy, jazz ostinato figure punctuated by big band blasts and throbs. The theme and album became popular in their own right, helping to make the television series a hit with audiences. This album was one of the first television soundtracks to be issued commercially, and was a favorite of the early stereo era. Selected for the 2010 registry.
“The Play of Daniel: A Twelfth-Century Drama” (album). New York Pro Musica under the direction of Noah Greenberg. (1958)
Determined to change contemporary attitudes towards early music, Noah Greenberg founded New York Pro Musica, a performing ensemble of singers and instrumentalists in 1952, and found great success with performances of medieval, Renaissance and baroque music. Pro Musica introduced audiences to relatively neglected genres of music and influenced many early-music ensembles. His 1958 recording of “The Play of Daniel,” a 12th century liturgical drama, exemplifies the best of his work. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Poeme Electronique" (album). Edgard Varese. (1958)
Described by composer Joel Chadabe as "the ultimate statement of tape music as musique concrete," this work premiered in the Philips pavilion, designed by famed architect Le Corbusier, for the 1958 Brussels Exposition. The work incorporated innumerable recorded sounds--voices, sirens, bells, tone generators--that were all heard by visitors to the pavilion from 425 loudspeakers positioned throughout the hall. The speakers allowed the sound to be moved through the space in interesting patterns that clashed with or complemented an array of projected images. The Columbia release (ML 5148) utilized the actual tapes that Edgard Varese employed in the original performance. Selected for the 2005 registry.
“Rumble.” Link Wray. (1958)
Asked for a tune that kids could dance The Stroll to, Link Wray came up with this powerfully menacing guitar instrumental on the spot, and the crowd went wild, demanding encores. When he couldn’t recreate the distorted sound of his live version in a studio, Wray poked holes in his amp speakers, cranked up the tremolo, and was then able to capture what he wanted in three takes--all for a cost of $57. Originally titled “Oddball,” it was renamed after the gang fights in “West Side Story” by a record producer’s daughter. Wray’s primal guitar influenced a generation of rockers including Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, the Kinks, Jimmy Page and Neil Young. Bob Dylan called “Rumble” the “greatest instrumental ever.” Pete Townshend said, “... if it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble,’ I would have never picked up a guitar.” Selected for the 2008 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 111KB]
“Tom Dooley.” The Kingston Trio. (1958)
The Kingston Trio recorded their version of “Tom Dooley” on their debut album for Capitol Records in early 1958. The song was already part of their regular set list and was also in the repertoire of other folk revivalists such as the Tarriers and the Gateway Trio. In spite of Nick Reynolds' distinctive and dramatic opening narration, the song attracted little attention on its own until a Salt Lake City radio station began playing it heavily, prompting Capitol Records to place the 1866 murder ballad on a 45rpm record. The song helped spark a modern-folk revival, the influence of which would be felt throughout American popular music. Selected for the 2008 registry.
Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto, No. 1. Van Cliburn. (April 11, 1958)
Twenty-three-year-old Texas piano prodigy Van Cliburn won the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in April 1958, charming a critical, but rapt Russian audience with this performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto, No. 1 in the finals. “Time” magazine noted that his competition appearance and subsequent concert tour of the Soviet Union, broadcast over radio and television, “has had more favorable impact on more Russians than any U.S. export of word or deed since World War II.” Composer Aram Khachaturian stated, “you find a virtuoso like this only once or twice in a century.” Although Cliburn later recorded the Concerto for an RCA Victor commercial release that enjoyed immense popularity, the archival recordings from the finals of the competition convey the sense of Cold War history in the making. Selected for the 2012 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 133KB]
On December 18, 1958, the U.S. launched into orbit the world’s first communications satellite in response to the Soviet Union’s successful orbiting the previous year of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Although he was not impressed by Sputnik, President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded to these anxieties by reluctantly increasing defense spending. Created under the auspices of the Defense Department’s newly formed Advanced Research Projects Agency, Project SCORE transmitted a prerecorded message by Eisenhower the day after its launch that was heard on ground stations via shortwave radio. The President’s greeting was succinct, conveying peaceful wishes to the whole world. The launch and the transmission of the president’s message was promoted as a major propaganda victory. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Winds in Hi-Fi" (album). Eastman Wind Ensemble with Frederick Fennell. (1958)
The Eastman Wind Ensemble, one of the finest such ensembles ever to record, gave its first performance in 1953, the same year they began a series of 24 recordings for Mercury's Living Presence label. Their recordings jump-started the American concert wind band movement. This album features works by Percy Grainger, Bernard Rogers, Darius Milhaud, and Richard Strauss. Grainger often commented that he considered this the definitive recording of his composition "Lincolnshire Posy." Selected for the 2003 registry.
“Der Ring des Nibelungen” (The complete “Ring Cycle”) (album). Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. (1958-1965)
In the late 1950s, John Culshaw, a producer for the English Decca label, attempted the most ambitious recording project up to that time–-a complete studio recording of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" (“The Ring of the Nibelung”) on stereo LP. This landmark nineteen-disc series features the Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of the authoritative Wagner conductor Sir Georg Solti. Among the many superb vocal performances recorded for this Ring are those of Birgit Nilsson and Kirsten Flagstad. The series is credited with bringing Wagner's masterpieces into the homes of many Americans who had never before visited an opera house. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"'Freight Train,' and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes" (album). Elizabeth Cotten. (1959)
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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Giant Steps" (album). John Coltrane. (1959)
John Coltrane's lightning-fast runs on this debut recording for Atlantic Records have been described by writer Ira Gitler as "sheets of sound." In characteristic fashion, Coltrane plays phrases forward, backwards and upside down, exhausting the possible permutations of a motive before proceeding. These fast runs signal Coltrane's movement away from a chordal approach to jazz in favor of a more scalar approach. "Giant Steps" contains seven original compositions by Coltrane, many of which have gone on to become jazz standards. Selected for the 2004 registry.
“Gypsy” (album). Original cast recording. (1959)
“Gypsy” is considered by many to be the apotheosis of the original Broadway cast recording. It boasts a spectacular score, thrilling orchestrations, and a star turn by Ethel Merman. Jule Styne’s music includes pitch perfect pastiches of vaudeville and burlesque songs, tender ballads, and what is generally agreed to be the most exciting Broadway overture in history. The lyrics by Sondheim are funny, clever, and perfectly suited to the show’s characters. Much of the score was tailored to Merman, and rarely has a score and a voice so sparked each other to create such a defining record. Selected for the 2009 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 103KB]
“Howl.” Allen Ginsberg. (1959)
“Howl,” Ginsberg’s most famous poem, was an experiment in the invention of a new style of poetry, one based not on “little short-line patterns” but on “the formal organization of the long line.” The poem employs vivid visual impressions and chaotic phrasing. In his recitation, Ginsberg is particularly effective in his relatively unemotional delivery despite his passionate language and the work’s frequent literary anger which describes the history of the Beat Generation and documents its anti-establishment rage. When “Howl” was first published in 1956, it was banned for obscenity and became a celebrated legal case among defenders of the First Amendment. Ginsberg appears on this recording at a 1959 Chicago “Big Table” reading presented by the Shaw Society in Chicago, Illinois. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Kind of Blue" (album). Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, and others. (1959)
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 became a best-selling album. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Mingus Ah Um" (album). Charles Mingus. (1959)
Jazz bassist and bandleader Charles Mingus is recognized today as one of the finest jazz composers in history. His genius as a composer, exemplified in "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Fables of Faubus," "Better Git It in Your Soul," and "Jelly Roll," from this album, combines elements of gospel, blues, New Orleans jazz, swing, bop, Latin music, modern classical music, and avant-garde jazz. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Documenting the street sounds of New York City has been a passion for Tony Schwartz since 1945 when he bought a wire recorder and started to collect the sounds of the world around him. Since then, his audio archive has become one of the most significant collections of the sounds of everyday life. "New York Taxi Driver" comprises conversations and stories recorded with taxi drivers while riding in their cabs during the 1950s. A creator of advertisements and public service announcements, Schwartz also produced the first anti-smoking ad and the famous "Daisy" ad used in President Lyndon Johnson's 1964 campaign. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"A Program of Song" (album). Leontyne Price. (1959)
Leontyne Price’s debut recital recording, “A Program of Song,” recorded in 1959 at Town Hall in New York, showcases the soprano’s beautiful, well-balanced voice that had been garnering praise since the early 1950’s. As a student at the Juilliard School of Music she caught the attention of Virgil Thomson and was invited to sing the role of Saint Cecilia in the 1952 revival of his “Four Saints in Three Acts.” Success soon followed with U.S. and European tours and debuts in opera houses around the world. Known for her insightful and adventurous musicianship, as well as the dramatic feeling she brought to roles, in 1960, Price became the first African American to sing a leading role, Aida, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. “A Program of Song,” featuring renditions of French and German works by Gabriel Fauré, Francis Poulenc, Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf that are considered to be among the most challenging of vocal pieces, revealed to listeners at home an artist of amazing power, range and depth. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"The Shape of Jazz to Come" (album). Ornette Coleman. (1959)
On his debut for Atlantic Records, Ornette Coleman pushed the boundaries of jazz even further into the unknown than he had on his earlier efforts for Contemporary Records. Critic Ralph J. Gleason observed that “the musical and critical world [was] split neatly in two” by Coleman’s willingness to abandon bebop’s harmonic structure and timing when his music required it. What Coleman never abandoned was the centrality of improvisation to jazz. In this effort he is ably assisted by Don Cherry on cornet, Charlie Haden on bass and Billy Higgins on drums – all musicians with whom he had played intermittently for several years. Cherry and Coleman achieve a close interaction on several tracks, particularly in their speedy unison playing at the beginning of “Eventually” and “Congeniality.” Haden not only accompanies the other musicians, but also stretches the melodic potential of his instrument, particularly in his solo on “Focus on Sanity.” For all the record’s iconoclasm, it swings, and even Coleman’s more outrageous timbral experimentation can be understood as rooted in the expressiveness of the blues. Selected for the 2012 registry.
“Time Out” (album). The Dave Brubeck Quartet. (1959)
Spawned by the "Cool Jazz" movement, “Time Out” is an album both accessible and musically and rhythmically sophisticated. Whether the selections possess an unforgettable melody in 5/4 time like “Take Five,” written by the Quartet's saxophonist Paul Desmond, or are inspired by Turkish traditions, like "Blue Rondo a la Turk," they are instantly recognizable to a generation of listeners. Selected for the 2005 registry.
United Sacred Harp Musical Convention in Fyffe, Alabama (field recordings by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins). (1959)
Folklorist Alan Lomax characterized the folk polyphony that he and English folksinger Shirley Collins recorded at the annual United Sacred Harp Musical Convention as "choral music for a nation of individualists." About 150 Southern shape-note singers ranging in age from under 10 to over 90 participated, singing from "The Sacred Harp," a hymnal written in so-called "shape notes." This 19th-century notational system was originally devised to teach untrained singers to harmonize more fluently, but it also enabled the creation of invigorating and complex pieces sung in four parts by participants seated around a square, thus creating the multi-directional cascades of voices heard on these recordings. The future of the tradition was very much in doubt when these recordings were made. Lomax and others had earlier documented Sacred Harp singing on monophonic discs. These stereo tape recordings were the first to capture the music's full vigor and complexity. The dissemination of these recordings helped preserve and revitalize this uniquely American form both inside and outside of their original communities. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"What'd I Say" (Parts 1 and 2). Ray Charles. (1959)
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Blind Joe Death" (album). John Fahey. (1959, 1964, 1967)
In 1959 solo guitarist John Fahey self-published the first version of this album, pressing only 100 copies and distributing them locally in Washington, D.C. and among his acquaintances. In subsequent years, he re-recorded selections of the album on different occasions, expressing a preference for the more technically demanding performances on the 1967 stereo release. Heavily influenced by classic blues and folk 78-rpm recordings he had collected since his youth, Fahey’s solo guitar compositions also incorporate such surprising influences as the work of Charles Ives and Bela Bartok to forge uniquely personal statements. Selected for the 2010 registry.
“The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” (album). Bob Newhart. (1960)
Bob Newhart introduced his fresh, new style of deceptively satiric comedy to audiences with this recording in 1960. “The Button-Down Mind” is the first collection of Newhart’s subtle, archly understated, humorous monologues that often represent a one-sided dialog with an unheard partner delivered in his characteristically deadpan style. His humor focuses on an average guy trying to hold on to his composure under some of the most unusual predicaments imaginable. Like Jack Benny, Newhart uses significant pauses to achieve heightened humorous effects. This recording contains his comedy classic, “The Driving Instructor,” where he shines in a one-sided monologue as the instructor of the most dangerous and inept driving student ever to get behind the wheel. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Cathy's Clown." The Everly Brothers. (1960)
In 1960, the Everly Brothers moved to a new label, Warner Bros., and wanted their first release for them to be a hit. Their first record for Warners would become their biggest success. “Cathy’s Clown” was written by Don and Phil Everly. Its subject matter was inspired by a high school girlfriend of Don’s; its sound by Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite.” Recorded in the legendary RCA Studio B in Nashville, engineer Bill Porter used a tape loop on the drums to give the impression of two drummers. Porter got the song’s distinctive vocal sound by having the Everlys sing into one microphone, then feeding that single through a massive plate reverb unit. Porter later admitted, to get the sound he wanted, he tightened the reverb springs to the point of breakage. The Beatles, who had been so influenced by the Everlys’s harmonizing that they once considered calling themselves “the Foreverly Brothers,” cited “Cathy’s Clown” as an inspiration for “Please Please Me.” Selected for the 2013 registry.
"Crossing Chilly Jordan." The Blackwood Brothers. (1960)
Known to gospel fans since 1934, the Blackwood Brothers are one of the most popular U.S. Southern gospel quartets. They have been credited with creating enthusiastic audiences in the 1950s and ’60s for music once considered unexciting, dry and boring, and transforming the genre by adding African American musical forms (blues, jazz, black gospel) to their own traditions. Written by quartet member, J. D. Sumner (considered by many to have been the lowest bass in gospel), “Crossing Chilly Jordan,” is an outstanding example of this spirit and style. With its jubilant infectious rhythms, rousing tempo, call-and-response style and four-part harmony, the song was often used as their encore number in live performances. The Blackwood Brothers were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Drums of Passion" (album). Michael Babatunde Olatunji. (1960)
Nigerian drummer Michael Babatunde Olatunji came to the United States in the early 1960s and released several popular and influential drumming albums. Musicians as varied as Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, and Carlos Santana have all noted Olatunji's virtuosity or counted him as an influence. "Drums of Passion" features traditional Nigerian drumming with Western choral arrangements in songs written by Olatunji. It was many Americans' first exposure to Nigerian drumming. Selected for the 2004 registry.
“Rank Stranger.” The Stanley Brothers. (1960)
The Stanley Brothers, one of the premier bands of the formative days of bluegrass, always included sacred songs as a featured part of their performances. Their recording of “Rank Stranger,” written by famed gospel songwriter Albert E. Brumley Sr. and sung with reverence and simplicity in the traditional mountain style, shows why the Stanley Brothers continue to influence performers today. Carter Stanley’s masterful handling of the verses and his brother Ralph’s soaring tenor refrain produce a distinctive duet. The spare accompaniment of unamplified guitar and mandolin and the emotional call-and-response style vocals heighten the emotional anguish of the lyric. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Texas Sharecropper and Songster" (album). Mance Lipscomb. (1960)
Mance Lipscomb, was born in 1895 in Navasota, Texas. His father was a former slave who took up the fiddle after the Civil War, his mother, a half Choctaw gospel singer. Lipscomb played guitar and wrote songs from his teens, but never recorded until this 1960 session, done in his kitchen, that resulted in this album, the first LP released by Arhoolie Records. A proud man, Lipscomb disliked the term “sharecropper,” preferring to think of himself simply as a farmer, and the word was later dropped from the title of CD reissues. Although he was influenced by such artists as Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lipscomb didn’t consider himself a blues musician and preferred the term “songster” which better conveyed his wide-ranging repertoire of over 300 songs. After the success of this album, Lipscomb became a regular on the folk festival circuit. On this album, Lipscomb plays fingerstyle guitar, except for when he uses a jackknife to play slide guitar on Jefferson’s “Jack O’ Diamonds.” Selected for the 2013 registry.
"The Twist." Chubby Checker. (1960)
Chubby Checker’s rendition of “The Twist” became emblematic of the energy and excitement of the early 1960s. Originally a twelve-bar blues song written and released as a “B” side in 1959 by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, “The Twist” enjoyed only moderate success until American Bandstand host Dick Clark selected Checker, a young singer from Philadelphia, to record the new version and perform it on his program. Checker’s recording quickly became a hit with teens and the model for many takeoffs. “The Twist” caught on with adults as well when café society worldwide embraced the dance craze even as teens were moving on to new steps, such as “the mash potato” and “the slop.” Frank Sinatra recorded a “Twist” song, “The Flintstones” twisted, and Bob Hope quipped, “If they turned off the music, they’d be arrested.” Reissued in 1962, Checker’s version soared again to the top of the charts, ahead of the other “Twist” records that had inundated the recording industry in the intervening months. Selected for the 2012 registry.
This recording is representative of the Ivan Walton Collection at the Bentley Library, University of Michigan. In the 1930s, Great Lakes folklorist Ivan Walton collected songs and music in the northern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula in an effort to save the music of Great Lakes sailors. This recording by fiddler Pat Bonner reflects and preserves a fading tradition tied to maritime life at the end of the schooner era. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's" (album). Doc Watson, Clarence Ashley, et.al. (1960-1962)
Born in Tennessee in 1895, singer/banjoist Clarence Ashley grew up steeped in the folk music of Appalachia, and in the 1920s and 1930s, recorded many classic 78s in the old time style that flourished before bluegrass and modern country music. His music was rediscovered in the 1950s as part of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, but no one knew he was alive and well until Ralph Rinzler and John Herald met him at old time music contest in 1960. Rinzler arranged to record Ashley, whose band included the much younger Arthel “Doc” Watson, a blind guitarist with similarly deep roots who had also absorbed jazz influences and played in local country and rockabilly bands. Watson turned classic fiddle tunes into blistering guitar showpieces with ease and memorably embellished the old songs he and Ashley sang. These recordings helped make them stars of the folk revival. Over the next fifty years, Watson played all over the world, teaching and inspiring countless young folk musicians. Selected for the 2012 registry.
Ali Akbar College of Music archive selections. (1960s-1970s)
The Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California, was founded in 1967 to provide education in the classical music of Northern India. Ali Akbar Khan, internationally recognized sarode maestro, and Swapan Chaudhuri, tabla maestro, were the primary instructors. The College’s archive contains unique, historic sound recordings, many in the early stages of deterioration. This group of ten recorded concerts of particular value, as selected by the College’s staff, includes rare performances by some of northern India’s foremost musicians including Allauddin Khan, Kishan Maharaj, Nikhil Banerjee, and Alla Rakha. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks” (album). Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. (1961)
The secret to living 2000 years? “Never touch fried foods!” In their party routine first performed for friends, Mel Brooks played a 2000-year-old man, while Carl Reiner, as the straight man, interviewed him. After much convincing, the two writers for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” recorded their ad-libbed dialogue for a 1961 album. Interview subjects ranged from marriage (“I was married over 200 times!”) and children (“I have over 1500 children and not one of them ever comes to visit!”) to transportation (“What was the means of transportation? Fear.”). Selected for the 2008 registry.
“At Last.” Etta James. (1961)
Etta James’ recording of “At Last” is widely acknowledged as a “crossover” masterpiece. The song was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the 1942 Glenn Miller film, “Orchestra Wives.” It became the title track on the first album that James recorded for Leonard and Phil Chess in 1961. In the producers’ attempt to widen James’ audience and sales, the album features many jazz and pop standards in addition to blues, which had been the focus of James’ work until that time. Her sultry, blues-inflected approach to “At Last”--set in a brilliant strings and rhythm section arrangement by Riley Hampton--transcends genre, like all great crossover interpretations. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Crazy." Patsy Cline. (1961)
Patsy Cline is considered one of country music's greatest singers and is an inspiration to many contemporary female vocalists. "Crazy," a perfect vehicle to showcase Cline's poignant, heartbreaking voice and suburb musicanship, also demonstrates the song-writing prowess of Willie Nelson. It is an excellent example of the urbane Nashville Sound, which became popular in country music after the rise of rock and roll. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 112KB]
“Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two).” Max Mathews, John L.Kelly, Jr., and Carol Lochbaum (1961)
This recording, made at Bell Laboratories on an IBM 704 mainframe computer, is the earliest known recording of a computer-synthesized voice singing a song. The recording was created by John L. Kelly, Jr. and Carol Lochbaum, and featured musical accompaniment written by Max Mathews. Arthur C. Clarke, who witnessed a demonstration of the piece, was so impressed that he incorporated it in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” When Clarke’s fictional HAL 9000 computer is being involuntarily disconnected near the end of the story, as it devolves it sings “Daisy Bell.” Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Judy at Carnegie Hall" (album). Judy Garland. (1961)
Judy Garland's singing and acting career spanned vaudeville to movies, radio, and television. She was revered for her musical strengths and personal vulnerabilities. This live concert recording exemplifies her ability to form an intimate relationship with the audience and includes a moving performance of "Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz." Selected for the 2003 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 105KB]
Inaugural of John F. Kennedy. (January 20, 1961)
John F. Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States on January 20, 1961, a bitterly cold and snowy day in Washington. The youngest person ever elected to the Presidency and the first Roman Catholic, his inaugural address spoke of the "New Frontier" and declared to the nation, "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." Kennedy had invited noted poet Robert Frost to take part in the ceremony as well. Frost wrote a poem, "Dedication," for the event but, due to the sun's glare on the snow, was unable to read all of it. Instead, Frost movingly recited from memory "The Gift Outright," a poem he had written years earlier. Selected for the 2003 registry.
“The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings” (album). Bill Evans Trio. (June 25, 1961)
All five sets performed by the Bill Evans Trio on June 25, 1961, at the Village Vanguard club in New York City were recorded, resulting in what are recognized as some of the greatest live recordings in the history of jazz. The trio, consisting of Bill Evans (piano), Paul Motian (drums) and Scott LaFaro (bass), has been credited with redefining jazz piano trios by including the bass and drums as equal partners rather than a rhythm section accompanying a piano soloist. The performances would be the last of the trio. LaFaro was tragically killed in a car crash ten days later. Producer Orrin Keepnews has recalled, “I remember listening to the tapes and saying, ‘There's nothing bad here!’” Complete recordings of all five sets were released in 2005. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"The First Family" (album). (1962)
Written by Bob Brooker and Earle Doud and performed by comic impressionist Vaughn Meader and a small cast, “The First Family” (recorded in October, 1962) presented a series of comedy skits about President John F. Kennedy and his family. The album broke new ground in political humor and was, at one time, the industry’s fastest and best selling comedy album. The recording was a gentle parody which poked fun at the Presidential family, the family’s famous football games, and Mrs. Kennedy’s White House redecoration project. Previously, hit comedy albums tended to be recordings of live stand-up performances. Following the success of “First Family,” many producers began to create studio albums of comedy sketches. Unfortunately, the album’s legacy and ongoing success (and Meader’s career) was cut short by the President’s assassination in November of the following year. Following the assassination, all copies of the disc were withdrawn. Selected for the 2013 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 140KB]
"Green Onions." Booker T. & the M.G.'s. (1962)
Booker T. & the M.G.’s were a rarity when they were formed in the early 1960’s: a racially integrated rhythm and blues group. Formed as a house band for Stax Records, Booker T. & the M.G.’s were playing around in the studio in early 1962 when they came up with two catchy instrumentals. “Green Onions” was originally intended as the B-side to “Behave Yourself,” but was quickly reissued as the A-side, then later, as the title cut to their first LP. Anchored by the rhythm section of drummer Al Jackson, Jr., and bassist Lewie Steinberg, “Green Onions” is propelled by Booker T. Jones’ driving organ and Steve Cropper’s stinging guitar. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Peace Be Still" (album). James Cleveland. (1962)
This enormously successful gospel recording influenced many later groups and remains an excellent example of gospel performance. Rev. Cleveland, a protege of Thomas A. Dorsey and Roberta Martin, was himself a pioneer gospel recording artist, and the first to make a live gospel album. "Peace Be Still" features keyboardist Billy Preston and the Angelic Choir of Nutley, New Jersey. Selected for the 2004 registry.
William Faulkner address at West Point Military Academy. (April 19-20, 1962)
Three months before his death, in one of his last public appearances, William Faulkner spent two days as a guest lecturer at West Point, where he read from his novel "The Reivers" and participated in a question-and-answer session with the press and public. Recorded and transcribed by two English professors at the Academy, Joseph L. Fant III and Robert Ashley, Faulkner is extremely candid, lucid and generous. Among the subjects he discusses are Hemingway, Dreiser, race relations and the future of the South and the purpose of literature. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Studs Terkel interview with James Baldwin. (September 29, 1962)
Representative of the Studs Terkel Collection at the Chicago Historical Society. From 1952 to 1997, Studs Terkel hosted a radio program featuring interviews with a broad variety of performing artists, writers, poets, playwrights, historians, political commentators, activists and people who in other circumstances might be termed "average" Americans. He has long been recognized as an outstanding interviewer and practitioner of oral history. His skills extended beyond getting others to talk candidly about themselves to producing revealing interchanges that illuminated and informed about creativity, commitment and life in the United States. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Lawrence Ritter's Interviews with Baseball Pioneers of the Late 19th and Early 20th Century. (1960-1962)
It was Lawrence Ritter’s great love and reverence for baseball that prompted him to travel for five years and over 75,000 miles interviewing professional ballplayers from the early years of the game. His 1966 book, “The Glory of Their Time: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It,” was based on interviews Ritter conducted with such greats as Smoky Joe Wood, Chief Meyers, Sam Crawford, Rube Marquard, Babe Herman, and Bill Wambsganss, among others. These 26 oral histories offer a rare glimpse into the early days of baseball and the men who played the game. Ritter, a professor of economics and finance at New York University, had an “open-end” interview style giving players a comfortable space to recollect about their careers. A true fan, he split all the royalties from his book with the players and their survivors for 20 years after its publication. Selected for the 2013 registry.
“Be My Baby.” The Ronettes. (1963)
This single is often cited as the quintessence of the “girl group” aesthetic of the early 1960s and is also one of the best examples of producer Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” style. Opening with Hal Blaine’s infectious and much imitated drumbeat, distinctive features of the song, all carefully organized by Spector, include castanets, a horn section, strings and the able vocals of Veronica (Ronnie) Bennett. Enhancing the already symphonic quality of the recording is Spector’s signature use of reverb. Selected for the 2006 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 91KB]
"The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" (album). Bob Dylan. (1963)
This album is considered by some to be the most important collection of original songs issued in the 1960s. It includes "Blowin' in the Wind," the era's popular and powerful protest anthem. Dylan's lyrics, music, and performing style marked him as a highly-influential figure in the urban folk-music revival of the 1960s and 1970s, whose work remains significant and influential today. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"The Girl from Ipanema." Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Astrud Gilberto. (1963)
This instantly recognizable performance popularized the melodic, samba-based, Brazilian bossa nova sound in the U.S. Guitarist and song composer Antonio Carlos Jobim teamed with saxophonist Stan Getz and Gilberto's wife, vocalist Astrud Gilberto, to create this sensuous recording. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Live at the Apollo" (album). James Brown. (1963)
James Brown's best-selling "Live at the Apollo" remains significant for presenting his incandescent performances of "I'll Go Crazy," "Think" and "Night Train." At the time of its release, none of Brown's prior studio albums had done justice to his dynamic performance style. With this album a wider audience became familiar with his velocity and showmanship. Selected for the 2004 registry.
United States Marine Band (album). (1963)
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 then be sold to help fund the National Cultural Center (later the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). The Marine Band, in particular, who had just returned from an extensive tour of the U.S., 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 due to its incredible sound quality. Selected for the 2007 registry.
“We Shall Overcome” (album). Pete Seeger. (1963)
Pete Seeger's Carnegie Hall concert on June 8, 1963, was the culmination of his recent tour on behalf of civil rights. A highpoint of these concerts was his performance of "We Shall Overcome." First sung as a gospel song, "I Shall Overcome," and later used on labor picket lines, Seeger changed the opening word from "I" to "We," enlisting the song in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Seeger and many other musicians of the 1960s hoped that music would be a strong force in the struggle to eliminate injustice and heal divisions in our country. This live recording of his concert captures not only Seeger's masterful performance but also the communal spirit of the folk revival movement. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"I Have a Dream." Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (August 28, 1963)
Dr. King's address is considered a landmark event in the civil rights struggle against discrimination and racism. Selected for the 2002 registry.
While every president from Roosevelt to Nixon have recorded some of their conversations, Lyndon Johnson’s were the only ones to comprehensively cover his complete term of office. A master deal maker, Johnson left little on paper to document his political prowess but his recorded conversations over the telephone--his favored instrument of communication--allow listeners today to witness him cajole and cogitate in real time. The 9,400 telephone conversations and 77 cabinet room meetings captured here for posterity comprise nearly 850 hours, documenting both major and minor policy initiatives. The tapes cover Johnson’s efforts for civil rights legislation, his maneuvers for Vietnam military action, and his efforts to initiate the War on Poverty. The LBJ recordings, as professor Guian A. McKee has written, uniquely present “a record of the president’s words and thought, direct, unmediated, and unfiltered, at least by anyone other than himself." Selected for the 2013 registry.
“A Change Is Gonna Come.” Sam Cooke. (1964)
Sam Cooke, a central figure in the creation of soul music in the 1950s and 1960s, composed “A Change Is Gonna Come” to express his impatience with the progress of civil equality in the United States. The song would go on to become an anthem of the civil rights movement in the United States. Selected for the 2006 registry.
“Dancing in the Street.” Martha and the Vandellas. (1964)
This rousing dance hit has been cited as one of the first examples of what would come to be known as the Motown sound. Written by Marvin Gaye, William Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter, the song was turned down by another Motown act before Martha and the Vandellas performed it in the Motown studios. The group, which consisted of Martha Reeves, Rosalyn Ashford and Annette Beard, had alternated between singing backup for other Motown acts and working on their own material, but, after the success of this song, their career as a backup group was definitively ended. The African-American community would come to infuse the tune with political sentiments. Selected for the 2005 registry.
“I Started Out as a Child” (album). Bill Cosby. (1964)
Recorded live at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, Bill Cosby’s second album is made up of short vignettes on a wide range of topics, but mainly drawn from his childhood in Philadelphia. Cosby’s delivery is intimate in style, but he utilizes the microphone and public address system of the venue to create humorous and evocative effects, and to conjure up the world as perceived by the eyes and ears of a young boy. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Oh, Pretty Woman." Roy Orbison. (1964)
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 covered 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 1994 U. S. Supreme Court case (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.) which ruled that a commercial song parody qualified as fair use under Section 107 of the U. S. copyright law. Selected for the 2007 registry.
“Azucar Pa' Ti” (album). Eddie Palmieri. (1965)
This album pointed the way for Latin music in the United States in the 1960s and beyond, and was the result of a conscious effort on Palmieri’s part to capture on record the sound he and his eight piece La Perfecta band were then serving up to New York nightclub audiences. Though steeped in the earlier Afro-Cuban styles that he loved, Palmieri's band represented several Latin music traditions, and was particularly distinguished by the contributions of the hard-charging, Bronx-born trombonist Barry Rogers. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" (album). Vince Guaraldi Trio. (1965)
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” introduced jazz to millions of listeners. The television soundtrack album includes expanded themes from the animated “Peanuts” special of the same name as well as jazz versions of both traditional and popular Christmas music, performed primarily by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. The original music is credited to pianist Guaraldi and television producer Lee Mendelson. Best remembered is the “Linus and Lucy” theme, originally composed by Guaraldi for an earlier “Peanuts” project, which remains beloved by fans of the popular television specials, those devoted to the daily newspaper comic strip, and music lovers alike. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 107KB]
"Hoodoo Man Blues" (album). Junior Wells. (1965)
“Hoodoo Man Blues”is cited as one of the first studio recordings to capture the energy of a Chicago blues club. Delmark Records owner Bob Koester was so anxious to record an album with blues singer and harmonica player Junior Wells that he allowed Wells to choose his sidemen and songs. Because Koester believed the selected guitarist was contractually obligated to another company, guitarist Buddy Guy was billed as “Friendly Chap” on the original LP release. Koester also allowed Wells to stretch out a bit on songs, half of which lasted longer than three and a half minutes at a time when three minutes or less was the norm for a blues record. One bit of bad luck turned out to be a godsend. During the session, Buddy Guy’s amplifier quit working, and while it was being repaired, engineer Stu Black wired him through the Leslie speaker of the studio’s Hammond B-3 organ, which gave Guy’s guitar a distinctive sound, easily noticeable on the title cut. Koester later remarked, “I’ve always been amazed at how rarely reviewers commented on the guitar-organ tracks.” Selected for the 2012 registry.
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The Rolling Stones. (1965)
Initially released as a single in the United States, “Satisfaction” also appeared on the Rolling Stones’ 1965 album, "Out of Our Heads." Guitarist Keith Richards claims to have woken up in the middle of the night with the famous fuzz-laden guitar riff in his head and immediately committed it to tape. Although he was ambivalent about the riff, he nonetheless presented it to vocalist Mick Jagger who penned the song’s anti-commercial lyrics. Despite both Richards’ and Jagger’s feelings that the song should not be released, the other members of the Rolling Stones voted to release the song and it became a classic of rock ’n’ roll. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)." Otis Redding. (1965)
This gem of 1960s soul music balladry was composed by singers Otis Redding and Jerry Butler. Redding's recording for Volt Records exemplifies the brilliance of his vocal expressiveness and the spare but powerful instrumental accompaniments of the much-acclaimed Stax/Volt studio musicians. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Live at the Regal" (album). B.B. King. (1965)
Bluesman B.B. King recorded this album at the Regal Theater in Chicago in 1964. The recording showcases King's inventive and emotional guitar style, which blends Delta blues with a rhythm and blues beat, spiking the combination with his "sliding note" style. The album, one of the first of an in-concert blues performance, also documents King's intimate relationship with his audience. King, who has been called "The King of the Blues" and the "best blues artist of his generation," has been a primary influence on a number of artists including Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Tracks of My Tears." Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. (1965)
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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Carnegie Hall Concert with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos" (album). Buck Owens and His Buckaroos. (1966)
By the mid-1960s, Buck Owens was known for a number of hits and as the progenitor of the Bakersfield sound. This new sound sought to move country music away from the lush arrangements characteristic of most Nashville artists and to return it to traditional bands (without orchestration) playing honky-tonk and proto-rock and roll. Allaying Owens's initial fear that New Yorkers would dislike his music, the band sold out their 1966 Carnegie Hall show. The program featured rollicking versions of “Act Naturally” and “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again,” each enhanced by guitarist Don Rich’s crisp percussive licks and drummer Willie Cantu show-stopping raucousness. The tear jerkers, “In the Palm of Your Hand” and “Cryin’ Time,” allowed steel player Tom Brumley to add soulful accents while Owens’s vocals edged dangerously close to melodrama. The audience offered a standing ovation and a later critic astutely observed that they had witnessed “an inspired man render[ing] the greatest performance of his life.” Selected for the 2013 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 191KB]
"Music from the Morning of the World" (album). Various artists. (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, recorded by David Lewiston, 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.” Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Pet Sounds" (album). The Beach Boys. (1966)
Departing from the Beach Boys surf-music roots, "Pet Sounds" was an emotive and carefully planned recording that attempted to present an album as a unified work and not merely a collection of singles. The album is notable for Brian Wilson's lead vocals and the harmonizing support from the other band members. Equally compelling are the melodies and the arrangements, the latter featuring, among other instruments, horns, strings, theremin, accordion and a glockenspiel. The album has proven to be the most complete statement of Wilson's musical and lyrical aesthetic. Paul McCartney has remarked on several occasions that it is his favorite album. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Sounds of Silence" (album). Simon and Garfunkel. (1966)
The initial success of Simon and Garfunkel can be traced through the evolution of the title of their first hit record. The original, acoustic version released on their debut album, “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.,”was called “The Sounds of Silence.” That album sold poorly and the duo split up. Without their knowledge, Columbia Records producer Tom Wilson overdubbed drums, electric guitar and electric bass for the song’s release as a single. No stranger to merging rock music with folk lyrics, Wilson, that very day, had worked on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” This new version of “The Sounds of Silence” climbed the singles charts, prompting Simon and Garfunkel to reunite to record another album, this time in the folk-rock style of their surprise hit. At that point, the title of the single was changed to “The Sound of Silence,” and the album became “Sounds of Silence.” The duo’s Everly Brothers-influenced harmonies remain, augmented by electric guitars, keyboards, drums and even horns. “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me” shows the extent that their sound had changed in such a short time, displaying the influence of British guitarist Davey Graham, who contributed the opening of his now classic “Anji,” also covered on the album. Simon and Garfunkel would continue to grow as artists, but their success began here, with a re-edited single they knew nothing about. Selected for the 2012 registry.
“Today!” (album). Mississippi John Hurt. (1966)
In 1963, thirty five years after his last recording session, Mississippi John Hurt was rediscovered near Avalon, Mississippi, by Tom Hoskins, who had correctly guessed Hurt’s location from geographical clues in his 1920s recordings. Coaxed out of retirement, a series of folk revival concerts led to a new recording contract and “Today!” “Today!” shows that Hurt’s musical gifts, far from being diminished, had, like his voice, only deepened with the years. Mississippi John Hurt was the antithesis of a blues shouter. His gentle, soft-spoken delivery won him a legion of fans late in life. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"The Who Sings My Generation" (album). The Who. (1966)
On their first album, The Who, assisted by The Kinks’ producer Shel Talmy, laid down a set of tracks that would include both enduring classics and mainstays of their later concert performances. Pete Townshend penned the rebellious title track, “My Generation,” which features John Entwistle playing one of the earliest bass leads in rock. Roger Daltrey's defiant tone and steely vocal delivery on this track and others on the album helped sealed his place as one of the most powerful rock vocalists of the next two decades. The song is also known for Townshend’s proto-punk, two-chord guitar riff with distortion and feedback. The session later billed as "maximum rock 'n' roll," the sessions for the album also included Bo Diddley and James Brown covers. However, this album primarily marked Pete Townshend’s assumption of main songwriting duties for the band. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song" (album). Ella Jenkins. (1966)
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 compositions. 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. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Are You Experienced" (album). The Jimi Hendrix Experience. (1967)
This 1967 release remains not only one of the quintessential statements of psychedelic rock, but also has proved to be one of the most groundbreaking guitar albums of the rock era. Hendrix's playing, while strongly rooted in the blues, also incorporated a variety of jazz influences and a uniquely personal vocabulary of emotive guitar feedback and extended solos. Including such classics as "Purple Haze," "Hey Joe" and "The Wind Cries Mary," the album featured the able rhythm section of Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. It is difficult to overstate the enormous influence that Hendrix's recordings have had on subsequent guitarists. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Forever Changes" (album). Love. (1967)
Love was an integrated psychedelic band from Los Angeles that played an aggressively original mix of rock, folk, and blues, but the band was falling apart as they prepared for their third album, “Forever Changes.” Leader Arthur Lee was alarmed and pessimistic about the state of the world, and was convinced his own demise was imminent, though he lived until 2006. His new songs were filled with unexpected shifts and rife with foreboding, though his message was ultimately about resolution and self-reliance in the face of uncertainty and impermanence. Two compositions by second guitarist Bryan MacLean, somewhat augmented Lee’s musings, were no less striking and unusual. Rock was growing more electric by the day in 1967, but “Forever Changes” is essentially acoustic, with a restrained and supple rhythm section supporting the ambitious horn and string charts of pop arranger David Angel, making Johnny Echols’ searing guitar solos are all the more memorable. The fusion of psychedelic, mainstream, and classical styles, now seen as a landmark, found few takers at the time, and Love soon disintegrated, though “Forever Changes” continues to loom large. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Respect." Aretha Franklin. (1967)
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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (album). The Beatles. (1967)
The Beatles were undoubtedly the most successful and significant rock group in history. Their 1967 concept album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," is a compilation of twelve unforgettable songs, each masterfully arranged. The songs embrace a myriad of divergent styles yet, through the collective genius of these musicians, they are melded into a cohesive whole. The album makes use of novel studio techniques in creating an enchanting musical experience which transcends genre. Selected for the 2003 registry.
“Silver Apples of the Moon” (album). Morton Subotnick. (1967)
Morton Subotnick composed “Silver Apples of the Moon” entirely on the Buchla Electronic Music Box, a modular analogue synthesizer. One of the unique features of Buchla’s instrument was its use of the electronic sequencer, a device capable of creating repeating, rhythmic sequences of musical notes or timbres. Subotnick used the sequencer effectively in the creation of many repeated figures in “Silver Apples of the Moon,” creating a canonical statement for this pioneering technology. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"The Velvet Underground and Nico" (album). The Velvet Underground and Nico. (1967)
For decades this album has cast a huge shadow over nearly every sub-variety of avant-garde rock, from 1970s art-rock to No Wave, New Wave and Punk. Referring to their sway over the rock music of the ‘70s and ‘80s, critic Lester Bangs stated, “Modern music starts with the Velvets, and the implications and influence of what they did seem to go on forever.” Otherworldly vocals by the international model and actress Nico appear on three of the songs. John Cale’s hard-edged electric viola playing adds an eerie quality to singer and guitarist Lou Reed’s frank lyrical depictions of sex and addiction. Percussionist Maureen Tucker and guitarist Sterling Morrison make additional noteworthy contributions. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"At Folsom Prison" (album). Johnny Cash. (1968)
On this live album, country and rockabilly pioneer Johnny Cash played directly to his "captive" audience with songs about imprisonment, separation, loneliness, salvation, crime, and death. As the concert progresses, artist and audience become collaborators in the enterprise, urging each other to greater levels of enthusiasm and release. At a time of great social upheaval, this album and its 1969 follow-up, "Johnny Cash at San Quentin," showed Cash to be a performer of great compassion, humor, and charisma. Selected for the 2003 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 101KB]
"Cheap Thrills" (album). Big Brother and the Holding Company. (1968)
This hotly anticipated album was Janis Joplin’s second release with Big Brother and the Holding Company, and on the disc, her soulful, bluesy singing reaches transcendent heights. Big Brother and the Holding Company was not just a backing band for Joplin, however. Part of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury music scene, they were an excellent psychedelic rock band in their own right that existed before Joplin joined and reformed after she left later that year. James Gurley’s scorching, wildly overdriven guitar solos and the spidery interplay between his and Sam Andrew’s guitars on several track plus the solid rhythm of Dave Getz’s drums all attest to the band’s expertise. The album’s showstopper is the cover of Erma Franklin’s “Piece of My Heart,” which in Joplin’s hands expresses both desperation and endurance. Remarkably, even when her voice seems to be breaking up she stays in tune. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Oh Happy Day." The Edwin Hawkins Singers. (1968)
Regarded as the springboard for the development of contemporary gospel music, "Oh Happy Day" was based on a 19th century white hymn. Its popular music and jazz-influenced harmonies, infectious rhythms and use of instruments--not often found on earlier gospel recordings--have made the recording enduringly popular and influential. Originally recorded in 1968 on the long-playing album "Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord," as a fund-raising effort for the Northern California State Youth Choir by director Edwin Hawkins, the song's compelling, exhilarating sound found its way onto radio playlists first in San Francisco. Re-released a a year later under the name Edwin Hawkins Singers, the song became an international crossover hit. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Soul Folk in Action" (album). The Staple Singers. (1968)
The Mississippi (via Chicago) family act the Staple Singers established themselves as a top gospel act in the 1950s, but began reaching out to a larger audience in the 1960s, playing folk festivals and recording protest songs. This 1968 release, their first on the Stax label, did not achieve the crossover success of their 1970s work, but is a pivotal recording, a work that is spiritually informed and socially aware. “Soul Folk” contains such timeless tracks as “Long Walk to D.C.,” “Top of the Mountain,” “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” and “The Weight.” Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Stand by Your Man." Tammy Wynette. (1968)
Of the many popular recordings made by country-music vocalist Tammy Wynette, none elicited the reactions—pro and con—of "Stand By Your Man." The song, written by Wynette and her producer Billy Sherrill, is an ode to the weakness of men, the strength of their women, love, loyalty and support. When it was released in 1968, the women's movement in the U.S. was on the ascendancy and interpretation of the song created dissent. Must a woman stand by her man and forgive his transgressions because "after all, he's just a man" or do such attitudes signify subservience? However interpreted, Wynette’s artistry transcends any literal message in the song. Her performance ranges from quiet, pensive reflection to a soaring, full-voiced chorus of affirmation, contributing to a song that remains one of the most beloved in country music. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"Switched-On Bach" (album). Wendy Carlos. (1968)
This meticulously recorded album introduced the Moog synthesizer to a much wider audience than it had previously reached. Many of the separate synthesizer voices on the album were recorded to tape individually and carefully mixed to create the final product. After the recording, Bob Moog's musical circuitry enjoyed an enormous boom. Within a decade the synthesizer was well established in the idioms of rock, dance and Western art music. Wendy Carlos went on to record several more well-crafted Bach recordings. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"We’re Only In It For the Money" (album). Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. (1968)
Frank Zappa's inventive and iconoclastic album presents a unique political stance, both anti-conservative and anti-counterculture, and features a scathing satire of hippiedom and America's reactions to it. For the album, Zappa's radical audio editing and production techniques produced an eclectic blend of electronic, avant-garde and rock music that was influenced by such composers as Varese and Stravinsky. Also evident in the work are pop melodies, virtuoso instrumental performances, verbal asides and sound effects that somehow combine into a cohesive work. The result is an electronic sound collage that may be Zappa's most definitive musical statement. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"The Band" (album). The Band. (1969)
The Band’s debut album, “Music from Big Pink,” was a shot across the bow of popular music. “We were rebelling against the rebellion,” declared guitarist Robbie Robertson. Ignoring the prevailing “hard” rock, their second, self-titled LP (colloquially known as “the brown album”) continued their emphasis on Americana, but featured even better songwriting and ensemble playing than that on “Pink.” The Band mixed rock and roll with country, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, and even gospel. Robertson cited the influence of The Staple Singers on their vocals. Even the sound was deliberately against the grain, from touches such as the mouth bow harp-like Clavinet of “Up on Cripple Creek” to the overall woody sound of the album. “The Band” presented an image of America largely absent in the popular music of its time. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"The Continental Harmony: Music of Williams Billings" (album). Gregg Smith Singers. (1969)
Composer William Billings published six collections of his choral music between 1770 and 1794. His “New England Psalm Singer” (1770) was the first tune book devoted entirely to the compositions of a single American composer. Billings was largely self-taught, yet his a cappella choral writing, featuring the melody in the tenor, created an indigenous sacred music that expanded the musical language of America. While Billings was well known in his lifetime—his song “Chester” was nearly as popular as “Yankee Doodle” during the American Revolution—his work was largely forgotten for more than a century. Despite his having composed over 340 works, little of Billings’ music was included in mainstream American sacred choral music collections after 1820. His musical style and some of his pieces, however, were kept alive within the Southern U.S. shape-note singing tradition. Following World War II, a generation of scholars and performers rediscovered his fresh and vigorous music. This recording by the Gregg Smith Singers, a sixteen-member choral ensemble dedicated to the performance of American music, helped re-introduce Billings’ music to the world. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake" (album). Eubie Blake. (1969)
This two-LP set introduced ragtime composer, performer and songwriter Eubie Blake to a new generation of listeners. The recorded musical autobiography featured his ragtime compositions from the early years of the 20th century and his musical theater pieces of the 1920s. In the recording, Blake is reunited with his partner from the 1920s, Noble Sissle. The recording captures the full range of Blake’s genius, his ebullient music and his infectious personality. It also documents his enduring contributions to jazz and musical theater. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Fortunate Son." Creedence Clearwater Revival. (1969)
Released in 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, “Fortunate Son” wasn’t a protest against the war itself but against the system that determined who would fight it. CCR’s John Fogerty got the title from the term “favorite son,” a phrase often used at political conventions. Fogerty said, “I wrote the music for the song that I was calling ‘Fortunate Son’ without actually knowing what the lyrics were. I rehearsed the band for a few weeks and, at some point, realized I was ready to write the words. I went into my bedroom…and wrote the whole song in twenty minutes.” Since then, the wars may have changed but the resonance of “Fortunate Son” has not, as evidenced by a version Fogerty recorded with the Foo Fighters in 2013, a full 40 years after the original. In a “Rolling Stone” 40th anniversary review, critic Barry Walters gave Fogerty credit for writing “…a protest song that makes you wanna dance.” Selected for the 2013 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 125KB]
"Trout Mask Replica" (album). Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. (1969)
This unclassifiable melding of country, blues, folk and free jazz filtered through Captain Beefheart’s feverishly inventive imagination remains without precedent in its striking sonic and lyrical originality. Captain Beefheart (the stage name of Don Van Vliet) and the Magic Band—Bill Harkleroad, Jeff Cotton, Victor Hayden, Mark Boston and John French—had spent months sequestered in a house in the Los Angeles foothills, rehearsing and re-rehearsing the compositions to meet Van Vliet’s exacting standards before they entered the studio, to be recorded by Frank Zappa. Upon its release, the album, by no means universally embraced, nonetheless garnered raves from many influential music critics. Scores of pop, new wave, punk and post-punk artists claim Beefheart as an influence, including The Gang of Four, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Minutemen, Pere Ubu, The Fall, Tom Waits, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The White Stripes. Selected for the 2010 registry.
The landing of Apollo 11 on the moon had the world glued to its television set, yet the most enduring memories of the achievement are aural: "Houston. Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.... I'm going to step off the LEM now. That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." These words, first broadcast from the moon, have become some of the most recognizable and memorable sentences spoken in United States history. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Coal Miner’s Daughter." Loretta Lynn. (1970)
Loretta Lynn’s signature song lovingly recalls her hardscrabble upbringing in Butcher Hollow, a poor coal mining community in Kentucky. With an upbeat melody and arrangement, the song warmly recounts a childhood of little economic means but much love. Lynn writes songs that are realistic and plain spoken, portraying strong and independent women like herself. She was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988, and her successful career continues to the present. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" (album). Firesign Theatre. (1970)
Firesign Theatre, the Los Angeles-based comedy group, started on radio station KPFK in 1966 and began producing comedy records in 1968. "Don't Crush That Dwarf" was recorded in 1970 utilizing many sophisticated production techniques for the first time on a comedy album, including 16-track recording and Dolby noise reduction. The technology, enlisted in the service of the ensemble's creativity, enabled the use of surreal sound effects and layered storytelling. "Dwarf" is a one-act play that satirizes radio and television programs to comment on political, social and literary topics of its day. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Gil Scott-Heron. (1970)
This poem, first released on Gil Scott-Heron's debut album, "Small Talk at 125th and Lenox," served as a rallying cry to black America and proved a foreshadowing of the more politically active strains of rap music. Having published a novel before he switched to a career as a recording artist, Scott-Heron's street poetry proved uncompromising in its vision. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Songs of the Humpback Whale" (album). (1970)
The use of underwater microphones called hydrophones showed that not only can whales communicate, but they do so with beauty and complexity. Frank Watlington and Roger Payne, among others, made these unique recordings. The haunting sounds on "Songs of the Humpback Whale," along with Payne’s liner notes for CRM Records, helped turn the tide of U.S. public opinion against whaling. In addition to the album’s aesthetic and political significance, it can also be considered historically valuable: whales change their songs over time so these recordings document a cetacean performance practice of a time gone by. Selected for the 2010 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 85KB]
"The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East" (album). The Allman Brothers Band. (1971)
This classic live performance of southern blues rock contains a powerfully emotional rendition of "Whipping Post" sung by Gregg Allman. That song became a touring standard for the band while the album received wide acclaim for its lengthy improvisational jams featuring the distinctive dual lead guitars of Duane Allman and Dickie Betts. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Coat of Many Colors." Dolly Parton. (1971)
Dolly Parton's autobiographical song, “Coat of Many Colors,” affectionately recounts an impoverished childhood in the hills of Tennessee that was made rich by the love of her family. The song was instrumental in establishing Parton’s credibility as a songwriter. Her voice uplifts the song with emotion and tender remembrances of her close-knit musical family. Parton has called “Coat of Many Colors” the favorite of her compositions because of the attitude and philosophy it reflects. Parton's prolific songwriting career has embraced many different musical styles, including pop, jazz, and bluegrass, as well as country. Dolly Parton was voted the Country Music Association's Female Vocalist of the year for 1975 and 1976 and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Let’s Stay Together." Al Green. (1971)
Al Green's musical career began as a member of a gospel music vocal quartet. He found great commercial success when teamed with Memphis producer Willie Mitchell, crafting a singing style that incorporates an understated delivery with occasional climbs to a casual, pure falsetto. Green’s sleek delivery is complemented effectively by underlying brassy horns and funk rhythms played by the accomplished Hi Records studio band. At the height of his popularity in the mid-‘70s, Green stopped performing secular music to pursue religious endeavors, singing gospel music and becoming an ordained minister. Since the mid-‘80s, he has performed and recorded both secular and sacred music. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"Philomel: For Soprano, Recorded Soprano, and Synthesized Sound" (album). Bethany Beardslee, soprano. (1971)
Milton 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. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Tapestry" (album). Carole King. (1971)
Composer Carole King wrote many early rock and roll classics and then became a successful solo recording artist with her 1971 album, "Tapestry." It established King as a premier and influential force for female singer-songwriters and stayed on the charts for over 300 weeks. Selections on the album include "I Feel the Earth Move," "You've Got a Friend," and "It's Too Late." Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Theme from 'Shaft'" (album). Isaac Hayes. (1971)
After several years behind the scenes as a writer and producer at Stax Records in Memphis, Isaac Hayes broke through as a solo artist with a series of albums that featured his lengthy, multi-layered compositions and distinctive speaking and singing styles. In 1971, after the Hollywood recording sessions for his soundtrack to “Shaft,” a groundbreaking film about an African-American private detective caught between the mob and the police, Hayes returned to Memphis and created this double album. Hayes enhanced and expanded his earlier work as he saw fit, and created a listening experience as innovative and exciting as the film itself, leading off with an unforgettable opening theme highlighted by Charles Pitts’s wah-wah guitar and Hayes’s sexy banter with a female chorus. Selected for the 2013 registry.
“What’s Going On” (album). Marvin Gaye. (1971)
A masterful stylist of sophisticated soul, Marvin Gaye’s songs helped promote the Motown sound throughout the 1960s. Many of his vocal collaborations with Tammi Terrell topped the rhythm and blues charts. His 1971 concept album, "What's Going On," explored deeply held spiritual beliefs while offering social commentary on cultural events of the day. This self-written, self-produced concept album was an abrupt departure from previous Motown releases and became a huge commercial success. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Black Angels (Thirteen Images from the Dark Land)" (album). The New York Strings Quartet. (1972)
Composers Recordings Inc. (CRI) was established in 1954 by Otto Luening, Douglas Moore and Oliver Daniel. CRI was dedicated to the recording of contemporary classical music by American composers and, in doing so, helped to introduce hundreds of new musical works to audiences. American composer George Crumb is noted for his challenging and often surreal, emotionally effective works, which frequently incorporate new musical timbres and take complex forms. "Black Angels," one of Crumb’s best-known pieces, was inspired by the Vietnam War. The piece is written for amplified electric string quartet and includes the playing of a number of percussion instruments, crystal goblets and chanting by the quartet members. The CRI recording of the New York String Quartet performing "Black Angels" creates an opportunity for listeners to appreciate this rich and dramatic work, as have the company's recordings of so many other new musical compositions. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"For the Roses" (album). Joni Mitchell. (1972)
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. Selected for the 2007 registry
"Only Visiting This Planet" (album). Larry Norman. (1972)
“Only Visiting This Planet” is the key work in the early history of Christian rock. Norman was a veteran of the American rock scene of the 1960s (as well as a street corner evangelist) and his songs were musically assured and socially aware. Many earlier efforts in this genre concentrated on joyful affirmations of faith, but Norman also commented on the world as he saw it from his position as a passionate, idiosyncratic outsider to mainstream churches. “Only Visiting This Planet” was recorded at George Martin’s AIR studio in London with a group of top studio musicians that included John Wetton of King Crimson (and, later, Asia) on bass. The album set new production standards for Christian music. For some, Norman and his work are still controversial, but, regardless, his influence remains strong. Selected for the 2013 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 97KB]
In the late 19th century, Kewaunee, Wisconsin, one of the great maritime ports of the northern Great Lakes, sought to challenge Chicago as Lake Michigan's supreme port city. Its car ferry and rail-loading tracks were constructed in 1891 within a vast program of harbor improvements with an eye toward this goal. Its iconic foghorn was installed in 1906. However, in time, improved rail connections to other cities led to the ultimate decline of the port; hence, Kewaunee's ambitious aspirations were short lived. This recording preserves lost sounds of the once bustling northern lake port. The port's original fog signal was removed in 1981 when an automated signal was installed. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (album). The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. (1972)
For "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, previously known for their country-rock and jug band music, brought together a stellar group of musical giants of country music for an unprecedented collaboration. The recordings, made in Nashville, showcased traditional songs and country music classics with guest performances by Doc Watson, Roy Acuff, Jimmy Martin, Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis and Earl Scruggs. The resulting three-LP set introduced acoustic country music to a new generation of audiences and revived the careers of several of its guest performers. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Burnin'" (album). The Wailers. (1973)
This 1973 release was the last album reggae master Bob Marley released under the name The Wailers and featured the final performances of Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer within the group. While the group was rhythmically tight, Marley's role on this album is predominant. The album covers a variety of topics and moods from the militancy of “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot the Sheriff" to the heartfelt rage and poverty-induced despair of “Burnin’ and Lootin'.” The final track, the traditional “Rastaman Chant,” sounds a more redemptive note. These themes continued in Marley's work after he left the earlier Wailers lineup and became an internationally acclaimed solo artist. Selected for the 2006 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 121KB]
"The Dark Side of the Moon" (album). Pink Floyd. (1973)
“The Dark Side of the Moon” benefits from the fact that Pink Floyd worked out the songs in live performances for months before going into a studio. And when they did, they had some recent technological innovations at their disposal, such as 16-track recorders and synthesizers. Rather than overdoing it, “The Dark Side of the Moon”is an example of brilliant, innovative production in service of the music. The album is notable for the close vocal harmonies of Richard Wright and David Gilmour and for double tracking, both of voices and guitars. More unusual effects include the flanged choir in “Time,” the precisely placed delays in “Us and Them,” and a tape loop at the beginning of “Money” that was so long a microphone stand had to be used to hold it up. Band member Roger Waters interviewed studio staff and others responding to a series of flashcard questions, then used snippets of their answers throughout the album. Befitting its title, the themes of the concept album are dark – madness, violence, greed and the passage of time, culminating in death – as Waters put it, “those fundamental issues of whether the human race is capable of being humane.” Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Head Hunters" (album). Herbie Hancock. (1973)
“Head Hunters” is a pivotal work in the career of Herbie Hancock; it was his first true fusion recording. Possessing all the sensibilities of jazz but with R&B and funk soul rhythms, “Head Hunters” 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.” “Head Hunters” proved to be influential not only to jazz, but also to funk, soul and hip hop musicians. Selected for the 2007 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 136KB]
"Live in Japan" (album). Sarah Vaughan. (1973)
Captivating performances by singer Sarah Vaughan, who Gunther Schuller once called “the greatest vocal artist of our century,” are preserved in this two-LP set. The 1973 recording is an excellent example of Sarah Vaughan’s range of talents: her stunning virtuosity, glorious instrument, heartfelt interpretations, and ease of performing before a live audience. It features several signature tunes, including “Summertime” and "Poor Butterfly." "Live in Japan" was produced relatively late in Vaughan’s career and illustrates that, unlike most singers, Vaughan’s voice seemed to grow richer, stronger and more versatile as she aged. Selected for the 2006 registry.
"Precious Lord: New Recordings of the Great Gospel Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey" (album). Thomas Dorsey, Marion Williams, and others. (1973)
Composer of many enduring gospel classics, Thomas A. Dorsey is considered to be the Father of Gospel Music. The recording features Dorsey's recounting of his life, as well as contemporary performances of his greatest works. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Music Time in Africa: Mauritania." Leo Sarkisian, host. (July 29, 1973)
"Music Time in Africa," first aired in 1965, is the longest-running English-language show in the history of the Voice of America (VOA), the international news and information broadcasting arm of the United States. The creator and host of the program, Leo Sarkisian, made his first trip abroad to record traditional music in the field in the late 1950s. A one-time artist and music editor, Sarkasian was recruited in 1963 for work at the VOA by Edward R. Murrow, then director of the director of the United States Information Agency (USIA), the organization responsible for communicating U.S. policy abroad and carrying out much of the government’s international information and cultural programs. Over the next 30 years, Sarkasian would record in every nation on the African continent, as well as in Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Letters to Sarkisian from African listeners thanked him for introducing them to music from other African nations. On this representative program from 1973, Sarkisian discusses and presents music recorded in Mauritania. At the time of Sarkisian’s retirement in 2012 at the age of 91, his original library numbered over 10,000 one-of-a-kind reel-to-reel recordings. Housed at VOA headquarters, the Leo Sarkisian Library of African Music (1958-c.1990s) is being digitized by the University of Michigan. Selected for the 2012 registry.
Crescent City Living Legends Collection. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation archive/WWOZ New Orleans. (1973-1990)
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 Big Easy musicians including Clifton Chenier, Professor Longhair, Queen Ida, and others, culled from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Celia & Johnny" (album). Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco. (1974)
Cuba’s Celia Cruz was a dominant artist in the Afro-Cuban scene of the 1950s, when she sang with the great Sonora Matancera band. She came to America in 1962, and did well initially but, by the early 1970s, Latin styles nurtured in the US were dominant, and her career entered a slump. For this mid-‘70s album, rather than recreate the large orchestras that Cruz usually fronted, New York based bandleader and co-founder of the Fania Records label Johnny Pacheco assembled a small group that included pianist Papo Lucca, tres player Charlie Martinez, and several percussionists, including himself. This proved to be the perfect setting for Cruz to reach a newer and younger audience while simultaneously remaining true to her roots. And she responded with some of the most inspired singing of her career, especially in “Celia & Johnny’s” many improvised passages. The album’s opening rumba, “Quimbara,” was a huge dance floor hit and Cruz was soon acclaimed as the Queen of Salsa. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"Copland Conducts Copland: Appalachian Spring" (album). Aaron Copland. (1974)
In 1942, with funding from the Coolidge Foundation, Martha Graham commissioned Aaron Copland to write a score for a ballet that told a story set in 19th century rural Pennsylvania. Because of space limitations at the intended venture—the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress—Copland had to score the work for a chamber orchestra of only 13 instruments. Throughout the composition process, Copland thought of the work as “Ballet for Martha.” Shortly before its 1944 premiere, Graham, inspired by a Hart Crane poem, renamed it “Appalachian Spring.” In 1945, Copland reconfigured the ballet into an orchestral suite of which numerous recordings have been made, and which have been hailed for its rich symphonic vision of early America. But this 1974 release, with the composer conducting the Columbia Chamber Orchestra, was the first commercial recording of the original version, and is memorable for restoring the intimacy and charm of the 13 player score, as well as for the vibrant and haunting textures that Copland and the smaller ensemble achieved. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"Heart Like a Wheel" (album). Linda Ronstadt. (1974)
In the 1970s, a decade which saw the ascendance of singer-songwriters, Linda Ronstadt was a bit of an anomaly. Primarily an interpreter, she was blessed with excellent taste in song selection and the talent to put her own stamp on each of her covers. Ronstadt’s fifth solo album, “Heart Like a Wheel,” continued her tradition of eclecticism and contained covers of songs by Hank Williams, Paul Anka, and Little Feat’s Lowell George. “Heart” also shows a keen ear for new material, such as the achingly beautiful title track by Anna McGarrigle. What made “Heart Like a Wheel” different from Ronstadt’s previous efforts was the addition of producer Peter Asher, who had been crucial to the career of James Taylor, and the addition of Andrew Gold, who not only arranged the music, but also played several instruments on the album sessions. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"A Prairie Home Companion." First broadcast. (July 6, 1974)
Garrison Keillor, writer and humorist, began broadcasting his radio variety program, "A Prairie Home Companion," for Minnesota Public Radio in 1974. In the show, Keillor weaves together regional humor, musical guests, comical advertisements for imaginary products, and extraordinary monologues about his fictional creation, Lake Wobegon. Thirty years after its inception, the radio variety program is still heard on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Born to Run" (album). Bruce Springsteen. (1975)
Singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen, whose live performances are renowned for their energy and passion, burst onto the rock scene in the early 1970s, a time when many believed that rock was in need of new lifeblood. Billed early in his career as "the next Bob Dylan," his music evolved into a unique synthesis of early rock and roll, blues, rhythm and blues, folk, gospel, and country. Though "Born to Run" was Springsteen's third LP, it was the first in which he fully realized the sound that would earn him the title "The Boss." Not coincidentally, it was also his first album to feature the revamped lineup of his dynamic E Street Band featuring saxophone player Clarence Clemons, second guitarist "Miami" Steve Van Zandt, organist Danny Federici, pianist Roy Bittan, bassist Garry Tallent, and drummer Max Weinberg. In addition to the title song, the album contains such Springsteen anthems as "Thunder Road," "Backstreets," and "She's the One." Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Horses" (album). Patti Smith. (1975)
Before recording this proto-punk classic, Patti Smith and her band had honed the tunes in a triumphant run of shows at New York’s CBGB’s. In the studio, producer John Cale helped the band to further refine the selections in a process that Smith remembers as not always pleasant, but as greatly beneficial to the final product. Smith’s background as a rock critic and poet are equally in evidence on this record which includes re-imaginings of such oldies as “Gloria” and “Land, of a thousand dances” with the addition of Smith’s provocative and uncompromising lyrics. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Live at Yankee Stadium" (album). The Fania All-Stars. (1975)
The All-Stars are the house band of Fania Records, one of the U.S.'s most significant Latin music record labels. The All-Stars popularized New York City salsa during the 1970s through their concerts at the Red Garter in Greenwich Village, Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, and Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This two-LP set features top salsa singers Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Justo Betancourt, Ismael Quintana, Pete "Conde" Rodriguez, Bobby Cruz, and Santos Colon. Selected for the 2003 registry.
"Mothership Connection" (album). Parliament. (1975)
“Ain’t nothin’ but a party, y’all” intones George Clinton on the title track of this lively and unbelievably rhythmic funk album. While this undeniably is a party record, it is also rooted in the deepest currents of African-American musical culture and history. For example, the words “Swing down, sweet chariot/Stop, and let me ride” are an unmistakable reference to the influential spiritual recorded by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The album was released in late 1975 shortly after the arrival to Parliament of saxophonist Maceo Parker and trombonist and arranger extraordinaire Fred Wesley. Like Parker and Wesley, bass player Bootsy Collins, dubbed by one critic a “bass deity,” had played with pioneer of funk James Brown. Add to such assembled talent the classically trained Bernie Worrell whose synthesizer conjures galaxies of cosmic sound, but whose piano, as heard on the track “P-Funk,” evokes the ethereal chords of jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. DJ, conductor, arranger and wild lyricist George Clinton oversees the whole, providing an amazing range of space characters (Lollipop Man, Star Child) outlandish vocabulary (“supergroovalistic,” “prosifunkstication”) and all-around funkiness. The album has had an enormous influence on jazz, rock and dance music. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Red Headed Stranger" (album). Willie Nelson. (1975)
At the time composer and performer Willie Nelson recorded “Red Headed Stranger,” he had just moved to Columbia Records with a contract that gave him complete artistic control. The new freedom allowed him to compose an album of uncommon elegance and power, one built primarily of his own compositions, but including older country songs like Fred Rose’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” Set in the Old West, it told the tale of a tormented preacher on the run from killing his wife and her lover. In the studio, Nelson relied on extremely spare arrangements which emphasized guitar, harmonica and piano. At times the only accompaniment was Nelson’s nylon-string guitar. The resulting album was met with considerable skepticism from Columbia’s executives, but Nelson’s instincts proved prescient and “Red Headed Stranger” resonated with an audience weary of the elaborate production techniques associated with Nashville studios, setting a new course for country and popular music. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"Songs in the Key of Life" (album). Stevie Wonder. (1976)
In addition to Stevie Wonder's impeccable musicianship, this album features contributions from Nathan Watts (bass), Raymond Pounds (drums), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards), Ben Bridges and Mike Sembello (guitar) and a guest appearance by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. To produce the album, Wonder and the group worked in the studio relentlessly for two years, occasionally logging sessions of 48 hours in duration. These efforts paid off with a number of excellent jazz, blues and gospel-influenced songs including "I Wish" and "Pastime Paradise." The album also includes the Duke Ellington tribute "Sir Duke," in which Wonder acknowledges his debt to the African-American musical tradition. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"Ramones" (album). The Ramones. (1976)
Clash cofounder Joe Strummer has stated that the first time he saw The Ramones, the band generated a “white heat” attributable as much to the speed of the songs and volume of the amplifiers as to the fact that “you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between the end of one song and the beginning of the next.” The band’s first album captured the incandescence of guitarist Johnny Ramone’s speedy, no-nonsense guitar work, Dee Dee Ramone’s propulsive bass, and the surfy sonorities of Tommy’s drums. The youthful tone of Joey Ramone’s singing voice was equally influenced by Iggy Pop and bubblegum rock and when combined with the backing vocals and lyrics portraying teen love and anxiety, gave the album a strong pop flavor despite its heavy sound and the disturbing aspects of other songs dealing with drug use, Nazism and male prostitution. Recorded on a miniscule budget with little separation between instruments, few overdubs and no guitar solos, the album is an early example of a do-it-yourself aesthetic that inspired thousands of teens to form bands. The album’s outsized influence has been cited by first-generation British punkers (Strummer, The Sex Pistols, Captain Sensible of the Damned), hardcore bands (Husker Du, Black Flag, The Minutemen), alternative rockers (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden) and post rockers (Sleater Kinney) alike, over more than three decades of punk rock’s history. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Wild Tchoupitoulas" (album). The Wild Tchoupitoulas. (1976)
Since the 19th century, bands of African Americans in New Orleans have masqued as American Indians during Mardi Gras. They wear elaborate, homemade costumes planned and constructed throughout the year preceding the celebration, and take to the streets chanting merry boasts about their tribes. Their music is one of the many rich strands of New Orleans music, and Indians themselves are celebrated in many songs originating in the city. George Landry, an uncle of the famous Neville Brothers, formed the Wild Tchoupitoulas Indian group in the 1970s. The Nevilles were not yet performing as a group, but two brothers belonged to the Meters, New Orleans’ top r&b and funk group. The Meters and the other Nevilles formed the backing group for the Wild Tchoupitoulas album, and with Landry and the other Wild Tchoupitoulas, they celebrated this century-old tradition and broke new musical ground at the same time. Although it was not a success outside of New Orleans, the record marked the beginning of the Neville Brothers as a performing group and has attained classic status. Selected for the 2012 registry.
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 they outlined a conservative governing philosophy. Also showcased is Reagan’s conversational, folksy rhetorical style, which adds immeasurably to his public appeal. Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Aja" (album). Steely Dan. (1977)
"Aja" is an apotheosis of jazz-pop, a seamless fusion of jazz, pop and blues crafted with meticulous precision. Swimming against the tides of then-popular punk rock and disco, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan created an adult pop album—lyrically cynical and cryptic, melodically rich, and musically dense. The impeccable playing by a number of world-class musicians helped to achieve a musical whole even greater than the sum of its impressive parts. Selected for the 2010 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 106KB]
"I Feel Love." Donna Summer. (1977)
Brian Eno famously declared after hearing Donna Summer’s single “I Feel Love” that the track would “change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.” Summer wrote the song in collaboration with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Belotte, who felt that the song was supposed to represent the music of the future and should be entirely electronic. Consequently, they hired Robbie Wedel who brought four cases of Moog synthesizer to the session and which produced nearly all the sounds on the record, including synthesized bass drums and cymbals. Particularly notable was the bass line which Belotte has described as “a giant’s hammer on a wall.” When the thunderous sound was combined with Summer’s breathy and ethereal vocal, the cut, as Eno predicted, took the clubs by storm. Partly through the involvement of Patrick Cowley, who made remixes of 15 and 8 minutes lengths, the song won particular popularity in gay dance clubs and soon achieved the status of an anthem in the LGBT community. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 60KB]
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 as well as greetings delivered 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 ranging from ragas to Navajo Indian chants, Javanese court gamelan, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, a Peruvian Woman’s Wedding song, and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Selected for the 2007 registry.
"Saturday Night Fever" (album). Bee Gees, et.al. (1977)
“Saturday Night Fever,” the soundtrack to the popular movie starring John Travolta, was released in November 1977 as the disco dance craze was in decline. The popularity of the album, featuring the Bee Gees trademark falsettos over vibrant and infectious beats, was a major factor in reversing that course. More than 20,000 discotheques opened during the next year, attracting some 36 million patrons, according to one estimate. Following “Saturday Night Fever’s” success, disco records became a major component of the music business. Along with the Brothers Gibb, this disco masterpiece features songs by Tavares, Yvonne Elliman, K.C. & The Sunshine Band, and Kool & The Gang. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Star Wars" (album). John Williams. (1977)
This soundtrack score has been credited with reviving symphonic film scores in Hollywood motion pictures. The recording was a bestseller, its themes well remembered and often quoted. When the blockbuster motion picture was released in 1977, home video did not exist; hence, it was the soundtrack recording which enabled audiences to evoke images from the film in their living rooms. Selected for the 2004 registry.
Barton Hall Concert by the Grateful Dead. (May 8, 1977)
The rock band Grateful Dead was known for its eclectic style that drew on many genres of popular and vernacular music, an improvisational foundation, and a commitment to touring and “live” performances. The Dead was one of the few musical groups to not only allow, but encourage fans to record its concerts, offering tickets to a special “tapers” section at their shows. The organized trading of Grateful Dead tapes goes back at least to 1971 with the formation of the First Free Underground Grateful Dead Tape Exchange. Fans of the Grateful Dead will never completely agree about which of their over 2,300 concerts was the best, but there is some consensus about the tape of their May 8, 1977, performance at Barton Hall, Cornell University. The soundboard recording of this show has achieved almost mythic status among “Dead Head” tape traders because of its excellent sound quality and early accessibility, as well as its musical performances. Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Einstein on the Beach" (album). Philip Glass, Robert Wilson. (1979)
Influenced by non-Western music and avant-garde theater, composer Philip Glass and theater director Robert Wilson created “Einstein on the Beach,” the nearly five-hour opera that brought both international renown, incorporating visual images, dance, a chorus of untrained singers, and performers dressed as Albert Einstein. Characterized by one reviewer as “a heterogeneous surreal entertainment of ‘spectacle’ and ‘event,’” “Einstein on the Beach,” though lacking in narrative action, provides a series of “living pictures” divided into four acts, nine scenes and five connecting “knee plays,” and revolves around three recurring visual images: trains, a trial and a spaceship, each with corresponding music. Glass has written, “My main approach throughout has been to link harmonic structure directly to rhythmic structure, using the latter as a base.” Premiering in 1976, the opera, called a “mixture of mathematical clarity and mystical allure” by New York Times reviewer John Rockwell, was performed by an ensemble of amplified wind, voices and keyboards, as well as violin solos, solo soprano arias and a cappella choruses. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"Rapper's Delight." Sugarhill Gang. (1979)
The Sugarhill Gang’s infectious dance number from late 1979 might be said to have launched an entire genre. Although spoken word had been a component of recorded American popular music for decades, this trio’s rhythmic rhyming inspired many MC's-to-be and other future rap artists. The album version of “Rapper’s Delight” is an epic 14‑1/2 minute salvo of irreverent stories and creative word play. The song dates from hip-hop's infancy. As such, it does not address subject matter that has given rap music both positive and negative notoriety, but the song's inventive rhymes, complex counter-rhythms, and brash boastfulness presage the tenets of hip hop. “Rapper's Delight” also reflects an early instance of music sampling and a legal settlement; it draws its bass line and other features from Chic’s 1979 hit “Good Times.” As a result, songwriting credits for “Rapper's Delight” include that song’s composers, Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards, as well as Sylvia Robinson and the Sugarhill Gang (Michael Wright, Guy O’Brien, and Henry Jackson). Selected for the 2011 registry.
"Sweeney Todd" (album). Original cast recording. (1979)
In reviewing the cast album for “Sweeney Todd,” critic John Rockwell characterized Stephen Sondheim’s work as “complex mosaics, built up of bits and pieces of tunes.” The recording, Rockwell suggested, allows a listener a better chance to more fully appreciate such construction than a spectator in the theater, where elements of the production vie with music for attention. A moral tale presented in the form of a horror story--a wronged barber partners with an amoral businesswoman to make meat pies out of clients--the show ultimately dramatizes the value of human life. Thomas Z. Shepard, the record’s producer, stated that he conceived of this work “to a large degree, as re-creating an old-time radio program.... You should be able to close your eyes and get a fairly satisfying dramatic experience.” Known for the meticulousness with which he oversaw recordings of his shows, Sondheim contributed greatly during “Sweeney’s” recording session. Upon listening to the final product, he was moved to tears. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"The Audience with Betty Carter" (album). Betty Carter. (1980)
In 1969, after 20 years as a professional jazz singer that were sometimes frustrating, Betty Carter took the difficult and risky step of starting her own label, Bet-Car Records. It proved fortuitous for her, as once she was in charge of her own recording, she entered the most productive and successful phase of her career. Her double album, “The Audience with Betty Carter,” was recorded with her instrumental trio during a three night engagement at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner, one of her favorite venues, and the material is divided between her original compositions like “Sounds (Movin’ On),” her 25-minute tour de force of improvisation and scat singing; and an eclectic mix of standards such as “The Trolley Song,” “My Favorite Things,” and more obscure gems such as Charles Henderson and Rudy Vallee’s “Deep Night.” Throughout, one can appreciate the special rapport with her musicians and listeners that informed her live performances, and which enabled her to gain recognition as a superlative musician during a lean era for jazz singers. Selected for the 2012 registry.
"He Stopped Loving Her Today.” George Jones. (1980)
George Jones has said that he initially thought “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was too sad to be very popular, but, at one of the lowest points of his career and personal life, he made it one of country music’s most defining and enduring songs. Billy Sherrill’s restrained production highlighted the plaintive yet highly nuanced vocals that are the hallmark of Jones’ mature style but which also stretch back to his days singing for tips in the streets of his hometown, Beaumont, Texas, in the 1940s. Selected for the 2008 registry.
"Radio Free Europe." R.E.M. (1981)
The original Hib-Tone single of this song set the pattern for later indie rock releases by breaking through on college radio stations targeted by label owner and producer Jonny Hibbert, in the face of mainstream radio’s general indifference. Although a more elaborately produced version of the song appeared on the band’s first album "Murmur," the original maintains a raw immediacy that undoubtedly contributed to its overwhelmingly favorable critical reception. Singer Michael Stipe’s elliptical lyrics and guitarist Peter Buck’s arpeggiated open chords would not only become signatures of the band’s future output, but they added greatly to the song’s enigmatic appeal. Selected for the 2009 registry.
"The Message." Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. (1982)
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 issues--a course followed by many later rap artists. Selected for the 2002 registry.
"Thriller" (album). Michael Jackson. (1982)
Michael Jackson’s second album with legendary producer Quincy Jones attained stratospheric national and international success. Featuring outstanding guest performances by Paul McCartney on “The Girl is Mine” and Eddie Van Halen 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, the performances by a wide range of talented musicians and Quincy Jones’ expert production all contributed to making “Thriller” the best-selling album of all time. Selected for the 2007 registry.
Learn more [PDF: 71KB]
"Purple Rain" (album). Prince. (1984)
Prince was already a hit-maker and a critically acclaimed artist when his sixth album, the soundtrack for his 1984 movie debut, launched him into superstardom. Earlier, he had played all the instruments on his records to get the sounds he wanted, but now he led an integrated band of men and women who could realize the dense, ambitious fusion that he sought, blending funk, synth-pop, and soul with guitar-based rock and a lyrical sensibility that mixed the psychedelic and the sensual. Prince experimented throughout the album, dropping the bass line from “When Doves Cry” to fashion a one-of-a-kind sound, and mixing analog and electronic percussion frequently. Portions of “Purple Rain” were recorded live at the First Avenue Club in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, and the success of the album served notice that the Twin Cities were a major center for pop music as numerous rock and R&B artists from the region emerged in its wake. Like much of Prince’s other work, “Purple Rain” was provocative and controversial, and some of its most explicit lyrics led directly to the founding of the Parents Music Resource Center. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Recordings of Asian elephants. Katharine B. Payne. (1984)
Katharine B. Payne's recordings of Asian elephants revealed that the animals use infrasonic sounds to communicate with one another. Such acoustic monitoring of the mammals has provided important insights into the mechanisms by which matrilineal groups of elephants maintain distance among one another over time and how males locate receptive females. In addition, the use of recordings has proven a very effective method for surveying populations of elephants. It has opened new windows into the complex lives of elephants and provided a tool for conservation. The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University holds this important collection. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Graceland" (album). Paul Simon. (1986)
On "Graceland," Paul Simon not only incorporated a great number of musical styles, including zydeco, Tex-Mex and African vocal music, but also showcased the talents of many accomplished musicians. The recording features Linda Ronstadt, Adrian Belew, Los Lobos, the Everly Brothers and Youssou N’dour. The album is probably best known for Simon’s collaboration with the South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. “Graceland” fueled that group’s rise to international fame. Selected for the 2006 registry.
GOPAC is a non-profit organization established in 1978 to develop and educate conservative leaders in the U.S., and to provide support to Republican candidates running for local, state and national offices. Among the most effective and best-known tools developed by GOPAC are instructional tape recordings made by Republican leaders. The tapes inform GOPAC members and aspiring politicians of conservative positions and assist them in articulating and honing their language and message on a wide array of issues, as well as providing "how-to" primers on everything involved in running an effective political campaign. The recordings have proved to be extremely influential in shaping political discourse from the 1980s to the present. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"The Joshua Tree" (album). U2. (1987)
Brian Eno, co-producer and creative guru for this album, has stated that “Joshua Tree” erupted from the creative tension existing in the music of the time--between the “revolutionary form of passionate agitprop art” enacted by punk groups like The Clash and the robotic electronic pop of bands like Kraftwerk. “Joshua Tree’s” passion and engagement were from punk; its overt electronic sounds were from synth pop, but with the latter genre's careful calculation replaced here by “the sound of machinery being pushed to its limits.” In this case, the specific machinery being tortured is The Edge's amplifier on “Bullet the Blue Sky.” It is driven by slide guitar and excessive gain in order to emit controlled feedback which manages aptly to serve the song's melody and anti-colonial lyrics. Elsewhere, most notably on the songs “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You,” the guitarist perfects the chiming delayed guitar sound that syncs the rhythm section and complements Bono's impassioned vocals. This combination would henceforth form the band's signature sound and the album on which it gelled remains an enduring classic. Selected for the 2013 registry.
"Daydream Nation" (album). Sonic Youth. (1988)
Pioneer members of New York City's clangorous early 1980s No Wave scene, Sonic Youth are renowned for a glorious form of noise-based chaos. Guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo had previously performed with Glenn Branca's large guitar ensembles, and their alternative guitar tunings and ringing harmonies attest to this apprenticeship. On "Daydream Nation," their breakthrough album, the group's forays into outright noise always return to melodic songs that employ hypnotic arpeggios, driving punk rock rhythmic figures and furious gales of guitar-based noise. Bassist Kim Gordon's haunting vocals and edgy lyrics add additional depth to the numbers she sings. Selected for the 2005 registry.
"3 Feet High and Rising" (album). De La Soul. (1989)
Bucking hip-hop's increasing turn toward stark urban naturalism in the late 1980s, De La Soul released this upbeat and often humorous album to widespread acclaim in the U.S. and abroad. The trio—Kelvin Mercer (Posdnuos), David Jolicoeur (Trugoy) and Vincent Mason (DJ Maseo)—was ably assisted by producer Prince Paul (Paul Huston) who has reported that these were some of the most productive, creative and entertaining sessions he ever worked on. For the album, the group marshaled an astonishing range of samples that included not only soul and R&B classics by Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays, but also Steely Dan’s "Aja" and cuts by Johnny Cash, Billy Joel, Kraftwerk, Hall and Oates, and Liberace. Perhaps the most far-flung sample is a snippet of New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading the comics over the radio in 1945. Selected for the 2010 registry.
"Fear of a Black Planet" (album). Public Enemy. (1990)
"Fear of a Black Planet" brought hip hop respect from critics, millions of new fans, and a passionate debate over its political content. The album signaled the coupling of a strongly political message with hip hop music. Its hit single, "Fight the Power," was the theme for Spike Lee's powerful film, "Do the Right Thing." Public Enemy forged a new sound for hip hop that included funk rhythms, samples from James Brown and Eric Clapton, and "found" sounds. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Nevermind" (album). Nirvana. (1991)
This surprising chartbuster from a grunge band from Aberdeen, Washington, brought to the public's attention a new, heavily distorted sound that would catch on and prove an enduring influence in rock. Characterized by raw vocals, driving rhythms and surprising shifts in dynamics, the record resonated with America's youth and climbed to number one on the "Billboard" charts, selling over 10 million copies. Selected for the 2004 registry.
"Hallelujah." Jeff Buckley. (1994)
“Hallelujah” is the rare song that has graduated from being a well-known standard to attaining the status of a cultural phenomenon. Leonard Cohen developed the song over a long period, writing numerous verses, but never creating a fixed version, and Jeff Buckley drew his initial inspiration from a version that John Cale formulated for a Cohen tribute album. He rehearsed the song for years in live performances before engaging in a painstaking recording session that required re-recordings, alternate takes and overdubs to fully satisfy him. The arrangement is a spare one, including just a reverb-drenched Telecaster and Buckley’s closely-mic'd voice. The intimacy of the recording, coupled with Buckley’s quietly dexterous skill at holding and bending notes, has enhanced the song’s deep meaning in both public and private commemorations of grief, piety and celebration. Buckley's version fueled the dispersion of the song widely, and it has been looped beneath news coverage of 9/11, on film soundtracks and in television dramas, as well as for weddings, funerals, disaster benefits and religious services. Selected for the 2013 registry.
“Dear Mama.” Tupac Shakur. (1995)
In this moving and eloquent homage to both his own mother and all mothers struggling to maintain a family in the face of addiction, poverty, and societal indifference, Tupac Shakur unflinchingly forgives his mother who, despite a cocaine habit, “never kept a secret, always stayed real.” The song displays further evidence of hip hop as a musically sophisticated and varied genre which can artfully encompass a wide variety of themes and musical influences. Selected for the 2009 registry.