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US National Recording Registry Adds New Music Selections

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Katherine Cole

Each year, the United States Library of Congress selects 25 songs at least 10 years old that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” to add to the National Recording Registry.  This year's additions include a wide range of musical genres.

Professor Longhair was an important part of the New Orleans music scene for decades, with his piano style influencing countless other musicians.  That 1953 recording of “Tipitina” has just joined the National Recording Registry, along with some of the very first sound recordings from the 19th century. Also added this year is a 1968 Country hit that divided American women. Some were furious with the message of “Stand By Your Man,” released as the women’s movement in the U.S. was on the rise.

The Library of Congress description of the song says it is an “ode to the weakness of men, the strength of their women, love, loyalty, and support.” No matter how you feel about the message of this Tammy Wynette tune, there’s no denying it’s a real American country classic, with a great sing-a-long chorus.

The National Recording Registry is a result of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, which aims to develop a national program to guard America's sound recording heritage. The yearly additions to the National Recording Registry are chosen for their cultural significance. Not all are songs: the list this year includes the first mechanically reproduced sounds, known as “phonoautograms,” along with a 1953 sermon by the Reverend C.L. Franklin, the father of Aretha Franklin. Long before his daughter became a household name, her father was a recording star in his own right.  Reverend Franklin was among the first ministers to record full length sermons and offer them for sale.  

Also on the list this year: a part of VOA history.

From 1954 until his 1996 death, Willis Conover hosted VOA’s jazz programs, sending the music to countries where jazz was often not allowed. His 1956 interviews with musicians including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Stan Getz and others are now a part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. According to Library of Congress officials, these interviews are important because they were a “first chance to hear the thoughts of great jazz artists who came of age with the music itself.”

The selections for the National Recording Registry this year cover the entire musical spectrum. They include a 1931 recording by The Boswell Sisters and the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra showcasing the Boswells’ great harmonies, the jazz-pop-rock of Steely Dan’s “Aja,” comedy from Mort Sahl, and a 1908 recording of the unofficial anthem of America’s national pastime.

The famous chorus of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” is what’s most often heard, but the version added to the National Recording Registry also includes the verses, which tell the story of a baseball loving young woman, who would rather go to the ballpark than to the theater!

Also on the list this year: Al Green’s soul classic “Let’s Stay Together.”

You can find the complete list of additions to the National Recording Registry, and the reasons behind each selection by visiting the Library of Congress web site.

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