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Fascinating Rhythms

The 50 recordings just named to the National Recording Registry are fascinating as well as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."

George Gershwin Cover of "Fear of a Black Planet" by Public Enemy (1989)

In fact, George Gershwin and Fred and Adele Astaire's 1926 recording of "Fascinating Rhythm" is on the new list. This song from the show "Lady, Be Good!" is joined by such diverse recordings as "Swanee" (1920) by Al Jolson; Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin' (1929); Sergey Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," as recorded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1939; and Edward R. Murrow's Sept. 21, 1940, broadcast describing the bombing of London from a rooftop during the blitzkrieg.

Less well known but equally significant recordings are also new to the Registry: "Down by the Riverside" (1944) by Sister Rosetta Tharpe showcases one of the greatest gospel singers of the time; "The Suncook Town Tragedy" (1930) by Mabel Wilson Tatro of Springfield, Vt., is a fine example of the vernacular music of Vermont; and Alexander's Scourby's monumental 1966 recording of the King James version of the Bible took four years to complete.

More recent recordings include Neil Armstrong's indelible statement from the moon in 1969: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." John Williams' 1977 soundtrack for "Star Wars" is credited with reviving symphonic film scores. With songs such as "Welcome to the Terrordome" and "Power to the People," Public Enemy's "Fear of a Black Planet" (1989) ushered in an era of critical acclaim for hip-hop music. The youngest selection, Nirvana's "Nevermind" (1991), made grunge music mainstream with its anthemic "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and other songs of youthful alienation.

The complete 2004 National Recording Registry can be viewed here. Recordings on the list are assured of preservation in the collections of the Library. The Library also has a "companion" for films, called the National Film Registry, which now numbers 400 films.

A. [George Gershwin, seated at piano, facing right], 1938. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-122091; Call No.: NYWTS -- BIOG--Gershwin, George--Composer--Dead <item> [P&P]

B. Cover of "Fear of a Black Planet" by Public Enemy (1989). Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.

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