The best-selling album of all time and a recording that was never intended for earthly ears: those are just two of the 25 new entries the U.S. Library of Congress made Wednesday to its growing registry of historic recordings. VOA’s Susan Logue has more on the latest additions to this unique audio archive.
Michael Jackson made music history with Thriller in 1982. Tens of millions of people bought the King of Pop’s album. By contrast, very few people have heard The Sounds of Earth.
United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim and U.S. President Jimmy Carter are among the dozens of voices recorded in 1977 on a golden disc that was carried aboard NASA’s Voyager spacecraft on its mission to the outer planets of the solar system and beyond, to the stars.
The disc, which was designed to introduce our planet to intelligent life elsewhere, included greetings in 55 languages, sounds of nature and animals, music from a wide range of cultures and photographs.
As in the past, some historic political recordings were on the Library’s list this year, including President Harry Truman’s speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention and more than one thousand radio broadcasts made by President Ronald Reagan in the late 1970s, when he was campaigning for the White House.
Radio broadcasts by Fiorella LaGuardia, New York’s mayor from 1934 to 1945, are also among the new additions, but these historic recordings were directed at New Yorkers who were much too young to vote.
During a 1945 strike that halted daily newspaper deliveries, the mayor read aloud from “Dick Tracy” and other popular newspaper comic strips of the day to a rapt and appreciative audience of youngsters.
Most of the new additions to the National Recording Registry are music and range from Jackson’s hit album to the first commercial recording of traditional Cajun music (in 1928) and one of the first commercial albums featuring ethnic field recordings. Music from the Morning of the World introduced Americans to Balinese gamelan music in 1966.
T-Bone Walker’s 1947 recording of “Call it Stormy Monday but Tuesday is Just As Bad" is now on the list. Now a blues standard, it has been recorded by a number of artists.
Broadway’s My Fair Lady, country music’s Kitty Wells, and a debut album recorded by a 60-year old singer and songwriter. Elizabeth Cotton recorded “Freight Train” nearly 50 years after she wrote the song as a girl of 12.
Other songwriters featured in this year’s additions are Smokey Robinson, Joni Mitchell and Roy Orbison.
Music from this year’s big Grammy-winner, Herbie Hancock, was added. “Headhunters,” from 1973, was the musician’s first fusion recording, blending jazz, R&B and funk.
Since 2000, the Library of Congress has selected 25 “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” recordings to add to the National Recording Registry each year. This year’s additions bring the total to 250.