On March 25, 2020, these 25 recordings were added to the National Recording Registry.
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.
Audio Montage for the 2019 National Recording Registry
Recordings are listed in chronological order:
"Whispering" (single). Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. (1920)
Paul Whiteman's blockbuster hit "Whispering" was the first in a long series of popular recordings that sharply defined a new style and direction in instrumental dance music one — that would have long-lasting effects. Although rather quaint to modern ears, "Whispering" was at the pinnacle of up-to-date dance music and directly led to the Big Band Era. Among its attributes were bold, clean lines with the melody clearly in front. Gone was the old fashioned-ness of the lead being handed off to different voices mid-chorus. Also, harmonic and rhythmic support was pared down to a sleek, tasteful profile, one that encouraged the smart-looking updated fox-trot of 1920. With his pianist-arranger, Ferde Grofe, and ace trumpet man Henry Busse, Whiteman would both codify a type of jazz and be popularly considered its king.
"Protesta per Sacco e Vanzetti," Compagnia Columbia; "Sacco e Vanzetti," Raoul Romito. (1927)
"Compagnia Columba" were a group of actors who recorded this and other scenes for the Columbia label, including sketches about the death of Rudolph Valentino and the Lateran Treaty that recognized Vatican City as an independent state. This 1927 release combines a spoken, dramatic set piece on it's A side with a protest song on the B side. Both sides decry the impending execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian American immigrants convicted of murder in 1920 but believed by many to have been railroaded because of their anarchist political beliefs. "Protesta per Sacco e Vanzetti" presents a scene at a rally for the two men, with actors, representing different regions of Italy, speaking on their behalf as well as others wrongly accused: "Friends, you already know what has brought us together here, and I am happy to see in this solemn moment a crowd made up not just of Italians but of people of all nationalities: Italians, Americans, Jews, English, Japanese. At this fatal hour we have come together to form a single race: the human race! With no differences based on age, on class, or on party." The scene was written by Frank Amodio, who specialized in dramatic and comedic sketches aimed at Italian-Americans. Side B features Raoul Romito, a popular Neapolitan tenor residing in the U.S., performing a song written by Renzo Vampo and F. Penisero, of whom little is known, though they wrote at least one other song also in defence of Sacco and Vanzetti.
"La Chicharronera" (single). Narciso Martinez and Santiago Almeida. (1936)
Martinez and Almeida, two pioneers of the Tex-Mex conjunto music, introduced the classic accordion (Martinez) and bajo sexto (Almeida) combination on this, their first recording for Bluebird Records. Martinez was known as the "Father of Conjunto Music" and had a long career in Texas, performing from a huge repertoire of regionally popular dance tunes and styles including polkas, redovas, schottisches, waltzes, mazurkas, boleros, danzones and huapangos. Almeida developed the bajo sexto guitar as the distinctive accompanying instrument in the classic conjunto style. Their music exemplified the blending of Central European instruments and dance genres with those of Mexican Texas that had been going on for at least a generation before they made their first recordings. This conjunto sound remains popular in Tex-Mex music in an expanded and amplified form. Martinez and Almeida were later honored with the NEA's National Heritage Fellowship artist award in 1983 and 1993, respectively.
"Arch Oboler's Plays." Episode: "The Bathysphere." (November 18, 1939)
Arch Oboler was one of radio's great suspense writers, later bringing his talents to the terrifying and beloved "Lights Out!" radio program. Prior to that assignment, he helmed this eponymous series and one of his best known plays, "The Bathysphere," began is legend there. "Bathysphere" concerns the descent of a diving bell to a depth of 3,200 feet with an unlikely two-man crew: a scientist and a dictator, one of whom may not be entirely trustworthy. After taking over "Lights Out!," Oboler restaged this radio play, in 1943, with new actors but with the same spine-tingling suspense. Years later, Rod Serling would acknowledge Oboler as one of his greatest influences.
"Me and My Chauffeur Blues" (single). Memphis Minnie. (1941)
Lizzie Douglas, better known as Memphis Minnie, was born circa 1897 in Algiers, Louisiana. She took up guitar as a child after her family moved to the Memphis, Tennessee area in 1904, and was singing and playing on Beale Street in Memphis by the age of 13. She started recording under the name "Memphis Minnie" for the Columbia label in 1929 and went on to record over 200 songs, more than any other female country blues artist. "Me and My Chauffer Blues" showcases her aggressive and uncompromising vocal delivery and stinging guitar work. It also is her best known song, thanks in part to later covers by Big Mama Thornton, Nina Simone and Jefferson Airplane.
The 1951 National League Tiebreaker: New York Giants vs. Brooklyn Dodgers. Russ Hodges, announcer. (October 3, 1951)
In 1951, the New York Giants won 37 of their final 44 games to catch their crosstown rival Brooklyn Dodgers, forcing a three-game playoff for the National League pennant. The teams split the first two games, setting up the decisive tiebreaker at the famed Polo Grounds. In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Dodgers led 4 to 1. The Giants had scored a run and had runners at second and third with one out when third baseman Bobby Thomson stepped into the batter's box. Ralph Branca's first pitch was a called strike. As he released his next pitch, Giants announcer Russ Hodges said, "Branca throws…" and then shouted, "There's a long drive. It's gonna be, I believe — the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" This game was actually covered by several legendary announcers, including Hodges (Giants radio), Ernie Harwell (Giants TV), Red Barber (Dodgers radio) and Gordon McLendon (the national broadcast). But it is Hodges' call that is most remembered and which so vividly captures not only the action on the field but also the excitement of the moment — truly the thrill of victory and one of the greatest calls in all of sportscasting.
"Puccini: Tosca" (album). Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Angelo Mercuriali, Tito Gobbi, Melchiorre Luise, Dario Caselli, Victor de Sabata. (1953)
In 1981, Christian Science Monitor critic Thor Eckert Jr. wrote a critique of the recording history of Puccini's "Tosca" and said, "In 1953 Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi, and maestro Victor de Sabata along with the forces of La Scala Opera gathered to make recording history — the finest 'Tosca' of all time, and one of the greatest recordings of an opera on records." To date, no other "Tosca" has equaled this performance. Produced by Walter Legge, the recording captured one of Callas'greatest triumphs. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians would later state, "Among her contemporaries she had the deepest comprehension of the Classical Italian style, the most musical instincts and the most intelligent approach," while Leonard Bernstein would call her "the Bible of opera."
"Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" (single). Allan Sherman. (1963)
"Hello Muddah" is a comic novelty song with lyrics written by Allan Sherman and Lou Busch (to the tune of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours") in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences at the fictional Camp Granada. At the time of the recording, Sherman was an intermittently successful television writer and producer specializing in game shows, while Busch was best known in the persona of ragtime pianist Joe "Fingers" Carr. Sherman lived in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles and occasionally performed his song parodies for well- known neighbors like Harpo Marx and George Burns. Burns brought him to the attention of Warner Bros. Records. Sherman's first two albums, released in 1962 and 1963, topped the charts, but it would be this single from his third album, "My Son, the Nut," that immortalized him. The lyrics were based on letters of complaint Sherman received from his son, Robert, while the boy was attending a summer camp in Westport, New York. The opening lines are remembered fondly by three (or more) generations of Americans: "Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh / Here I am at Camp Granada."
WGBH broadcast of the Boston Symphony on the day of the John F. Kennedy Assassination, Boston Symphony Orchestra. (1963)
The ageless adage of "drawing comfort through music" had never been more thoroughly tested than on the scheduled afternoon broadcast of the Boston Symphony, with its conductor Erich Leinsdorf, on November 22, 1963. That day, just after concluding Handel's Concerto Grosso in B flat major and a second short piece, Leinsdorf was forced to break with normal concert protocol and, stoically, address the large audience with a change of program and to share the tragic news of president Kennedy having been killed in Dallas only minutes before. For those in the audience and thousands more listening to the broadcast over the radio, it was their first news of the President's assassination. In the hall, and over the airwaves, shock and gasps rang out. As everyone in the hall — including the musicians — processed this news, the sheet music for the "Funeral March" from Beethoven's 3rd symphony was distributed to the orchestra, which bravely performed. The next day, Margo Miller of the Boston Globe reported, "The 'Eroica' marcia funebre is one of the great moments in music. The dread beat of the march cannot be disguised. Yet there is a middle section of the movement, a time of incredible energy and involvement, somehow, or so it seemed Friday, expressing eternal hope."
"Fiddler on the Roof" (album). Original Broadway Cast. (1964)
The character of Tevye the Dairyman was created by Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem and is an orthodox Russian-Jew who attempts to raise his daughters and lead a humble life under the oppressive reign of the tsar. While the Aleichem stories had been adapted various times before, Tevye's true entry into the greater public consciousness came with "Fiddler on the Roof," the musical adaptation of Aleichem's stories. Librettist Joe Stein had become a fan of Aleichem's writing and enlisted the help of composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick to create a show that incorporated traditional Jewish music — like klezmer — into a modern musical theater framework in service of a story about old traditions in conflict with the modern world. In the process, the show brought Jewish audiences closer to part of their heritage (especially sobering in a post-World War II world) while presenting gentile audiences with a story built on universal themes and a central protagonist both conflicting and admirable. With direction from Jerome Robbins and opening with Zero Mostel as a riveting Tevye, "Fiddler" became a massive Broadway success, running for a record-setting 3,242 performances. This RCA Victor cast recording features the original versions of songs that have now become standards, such as "Matchmaker," "Tradition," "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Sunrise, Sunset."
"Make the World Go Away" (single). Eddy Arnold. (1965)
"Make the World Go Away" brought veteran country hitmaker Eddy Arnold to a new, younger audience and launched what he called his second career. The recording showcased songwriter Hank Cochran's memorable melody and plaintive lyrics, Arnold's mellow baritone vocal and the tasteful backing of such Nashville session stalwarts as guitarist Grady Martin, pianist Floyd Cramer and the Anita Kerr Singers, along with an eight-piece string section. "Make the World Go Away" was a prime example of the "Countrypolitan" style of country music and one of the high-water marks of the Nashville sound that producer Chet Atkins and others had pioneered. Released in the fall of 1965, it became an unexpected presence in the national top 10 alongside the Beatles, James Brown and Dean Martin at a time when few other country artists or songs were crossing over to the pop charts.
Hiromi Lorraine Sakata Collection of Afghan Traditional Music (1966-67; 1971-73)
This collection of over 50 hours of important and unique field recordings from Afghanistan was the research of ethnomusicologist Hiromi Lorraine Sakata. Sakata first researched in Afghanistan in 1966-67 and captured 25 hours of recordings of singers and instrumentalists from the provinces of Kabul, Khandahar, Urozgan, Nangarhar, Herat, Balkh and Nuristan. Her second trip, from 1971 to 1973, resulted in 26 additional hours of recordings from Herat, Kabul, Badakhshan, Hazarajat and Kandahar. As she wrote in her book "Music in the Mind: The Concepts of Music and Musician in Afghanistan" (2002), these recordings document a time and place that are now completely gone. Invasion, civil war and social upheaval have disrupted and, in some cases, destroyed the musical life she documented between 1966 and 1973. Sakata, a well-known expert in the music of Afghanistan, taught at the University of Washington and the University of California (Los Angeles) for decades. These important recordings are now deposited at the Ethnomusicology Archives at the University of Washington.
"Wichita Lineman" (single). Glen Campbell. (1968)
Glen Campbell made a splash on both the country and pop charts and achieved enormous fame in the 60s and 70s with a singing style that matched a genial tone with introspective lyrics, emphasizing them in a way that made him ideal for modern country songwriters, most notably Jimmy Webb. Webb conceived the tale behind "Wichita Lineman" while driving through Washita County, Oklahoma, during a time when counties had their own telephone company utilities and lineman employees. Among the endless lines of poles was a silhouetted lineman who struck Webb as "the picture of loneliness." What was the man saying into the receiver? Webb placed himself in the man's head and, with lingering feelings from an affair with a married woman, crafted one of the most beautiful songs to ever climb the charts. With the location changed from Washita to the more euphonious Wichita (of Kansas), "Wichita Lineman" struck listeners with its poetic lyrics about a man attempting to make a romantic connection in the face of his own crippling loneliness. BBC Radio 2 recently described the song as "one of those rare songs that seems somehow to exist in a world of its own — not just timeless but ultimately outside of modern music."
"Dusty in Memphis" (album). Dusty Springfield. (1969)
By 1968, London-born singer Dusty Springfield was already a success in the United Kingdom when she came to America to record "Dusty in Memphis," which would become the defining album of her career. Even before "Memphis," Springfield had strong ties to American music having released hits written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David as well as Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Three legendary producers were involved in the sessions: Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd. The instrumental tracks were recorded at legendary American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, featuring the 827 Thomas Street Band and backup vocalists, the Sweet Inspirations. Springfield initially recorded her vocals there as well, but reportedly dissatisfied with the results, later rerecorded them at Atlantic Studios in New York City. Although the single "Son of a Preacher Man" was a hit, early album sales proved modest. Over time, "Dusty in Memphis" grew in stature to become widely recognized as an important album by a woman in the rock era. Elvis Costello, who contributed the liner notes on the "Memphis" 2002 reissue writes, "Dusty Springfield's singing on this album is among the very best ever put on record by anyone." Her voice, Costello wrote, was "... recorded in the audio equivalent of 'extreme close-up.' Every breath and sigh is caught and yet it can soar."
"Mister Rogers Sings 21 Favorite Songs From ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’" (album). Fred Rogers. (1973)
Almost two decades after the last broadcast of "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" in 2001, Fred Rogers remains an influential figure in American culture. As an enduring presence on national public television since 1968, Rogers emphasized holistic child development through play, curiosity and human interaction, while fostering emotional intelligence. Rogers held a bachelor's degree in music composition and aptly leveraged the potential of music to influence emotion, memory and cognitive development by composing prolifically for his program. Numerous musical guests and the consistent presence of an in-house jazz trio led by pianist Johnny Costa also exposed listeners to a wide range of high-quality music. Certain tunes became synonymous with the program, especially the opening and closing themes as well as "You Are Special" and "I'm Proud of You." His recitation of his lyrics for "What Do You Do (With the Mad That You Feel)" was a high point of his 1969 testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications that helped save funding for public broadcasting.
"Cheap Trick at Budokan" (album). Cheap Trick. (1978)
Though a handful of U.S. critics and devoted fans could have told you about their formidable live performances, Cheap Trick had had, by the late 1970s, very little impact at home in the USA. But they were already huge in Japan. In 1978, at the Budokan in Tokyo before 12,000 ardent fans, the band recorded this seminal live album, which was originally meant solely for sale in the Japanese market. But stoked later by word-of-mouth and airplay on a few U.S. FM rock stations, high-priced imports of the album began to sell in unheard-of numbers for a Japanese release in the U.S. Further airplay and interest increased when Epic, the band's record company, serviced radio stations with a promotional version of the album unavailable in stores before finally releasing "Cheap Trick: Live at Budokan" domestically in February 1979. It proved to be the making of the band in their home country, as well as a loud and welcomed alternative to disco and soft rock and a decisive comeback for rock and roll.
Frederick Fennell, The Cleveland Symphonic Winds / Holst: Suite No. 1 in E-Flat, Suite No. 2 in F / Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks / Bach: Fantasia in G (Special Edition Audiophile Pressing) (album). (1978)
This recording was the first commercial digital recording of symphonic music in the United States and was captured on the Soundstream recorder, the first available commercial digital recorder, introduced by U.S. inventor Thomas Stockham. The original recording was released to vinyl in 1978 and then again in 1983 as the first CD release for the U.S.-based Telarc label. The recording was produced by Robert Woods and engineered by Jack Renner, co-founders of the Telarc label. Telarc and Soundstream worked together increasing the capability of the Soundstream recorder and the results had an immediate impact on audiences around the globe. The WorldBook Encyclopedia described this recording as having "The bass drum heard around the world."
"Y.M.C.A." (single). The Village People. (1978)
In 1977, the Village People emerged as a purposely campy and extravagantly costumed vocal sextet of guys — the Native American, the cop, the biker, the soldier, the cowboy and the construction worker — singing upbeat dance floor anthems that often referenced gay pop culture. Now, over 40 years since it hit the streets and the dance floors, "Y.M.C.A.," their biggest hit, is an American cultural phenomenon people from all walks of life do the "Y.M.C.A." dance at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs or sporting events. It is as likely to be heard at a Midwestern prom as it is at New York City's annual Gay Pride parade. Back in its heyday, "Y.M.C.A." was a hit around the world, going to No. 1 on the charts in over 15 countries, and its ongoing popularity is evidence that, despite the naysayers, disco has never truly died.
"A Feather on the Breath of God" (album). Gothic Voices; Christopher Page, conductor; Hildegard von Bingen, composer. (1982)
Twelfth century Benedictine abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) is the earliest known woman composer whose works have survived to present day. She was a writer, philosopher, Christian mystic and visionary as well — the title of the album is a quote from one of her writings. Her repertoire had been ignored for decades until the release of this beautiful recording by the award-winning Gothic Voices, directed by Christopher Page and engineered by Tony Faulkner. This was Gothic Voice's first recording; it also marked the beginning of Gothic Voices as a permanent group. The release helped heighten — albeit belatedly — von Bingen's life story and remarkable achievements both inside and outside of music.
"Private Dancer" (album). Tina Turner. (1984)
Tina Turner survived a brutal marriage to reclaim fame and obtain recognition as a solo artist and a superstar in her own right with this timeless 1984 comeback album. After several solo projects she released following her divorce from Ike Turner failed to sell, Turner was without a recording contract when John Carter signed her to Capitol Records in 1983 and she began work on "Private Dancer" in England. Propelled by the lead single, "What's Love Got To Do With It?" (later the title of the big screen biopic about Turner's life), "Private Dancer" revealed Turner as a mature and versatile singer whose work transcended categories like rock and pop. Since then, the album and its song cycle have become a touchstone and a symbol for powerful womanhood. "Private Dancer" solidified her as a legend — a status she achieved on her own terms.
"Ven conmigo" (album). Selena. (1990)
This 1990 album by Selena Quintanilla, known to millions of fans simply as Selena, was the first Tejano record by a female artist to achieve gold status. The album also marks a turning point both in Selena's career and within the Tejano music genre — as it brought the music to a wider American audience and upended the dominance of male-led acts within the genre. Selena's biographer, Joe Nick Patoski, highlights the expanded stylistic scope of the album, which Selena's versatility made possible. The selections pushed the boundaries of the Tejano genre at the time while keeping the beat at the heart of the music; as Patoski quoted Selena, "I don't think you can really mess with the beat." Hits like "Baila esta cumbia" helped establish Selena as "the reigning queen of the Tejano music world," as her obituary in The New York Times called her just five years later.
"The Chronic" (album). Dr. Dre. (1992)
"The Chronic" is the 1992 solo debut album of hip-hop artist and producer Dr. Dre, a former member of N.W.A. Along with exemplifying the "G Funk" style of hip-hop production, it solidified the West Coast's dominance of the genre, and its influence would be heard for years to come. Although a solo album, "The Chronic" also featured appearances by future superstar Snoop Dogg, who used the album as a launching pad for his own solo career. "The Chronic" is considered one of the most important and influential albums of the 1990s and is regarded by many fans and peers to be the most well-produced hip-hop album of all time.
Listen—"Lil' Ghetto Boy" (MP3)
"I Will Always Love You" (single). Whitney Houston. (1992)
Inspired in part by the end of her musical partnership with Porter Wagoner, this song had been a big hit on the 1974 country charts for its writer, Dolly Parton. Later, it would become one of her signature compositions; over the years, she often concluded her concerts and her TV variety shows with it. In the early 90s, actor Kevin Costner suggested that pop diva Whitney Houston record it for the soundtrack of their forthcoming film, "The Bodyguard." Already recognized as one the great voices of her generation, Houston took the song and made it her own. Her powerful, passionate performance drove her rendition to the top of the charts. The recording would eventually become Houston's signature song and sell upwards of 20 million copies.
"Concert in the Garden" (album). Maria Schneider Orchestra. (2004)
Dance permeates Maria Schneider's "Concert in the Garden" with titles such as "Dança Ilusória" and "Choro Dançado." Listening to "Pas de Deux," it is hard not to be reminded of the seminal "Sketches of Spain" album Miles Davis made with arranger Gil Evans', with whom Schneider worked closely in the 1980s. It is a testament to Schneider's composing and arranging talents that her work can be seen not as a copy of Evans work, but an extension of it. And it is a tribute to her determination and leadership that the Maria Schneider Orchestra was some 15 years old at the time of this recording, with its 18-piece membership largely intact over that entire period. For them, Schneider created an amalgam of big band, chamber music and improvisational jazz. Such improvisation can be seen in Donny McCaslin's critically acclaimed solo in "Buleria, Solea y Rumba." In addition, "Concert in the Garden" was the first album to win a Grammy without having been sold in stores, being only distributed through the internet. Also, the album was funded and distributed by crowdfunding site ArtistShare, to respond to fan-driven demand for styles of music not otherwise readily available, while offering artists greater control over their work.
"Percussion Concerto" (album). Colin Currie; Jennifer Hidgon, composer. (2008)
A drummer's dream, Jennifer Higdon's composition "Percussion Concerto" received a Grammy after it was unveiled in 2010. It began its life as a co-commission between the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun wrote that the one-movement work "unleashes a kinetic storm of urban beats, balanced by passages of Asian-influenced musings that exploit the most seductive qualities of the diverse percussion instruments assigned to the soloist." And Marin Alsop, the conductor of this particular performance by Currie and the London Philharmonic and released over LPO's label, said that the concerto "embraces the concept and explains that a major priority for her is to give listeners a sense of grounding and a feel for where they are in her compositions." This 2008 recording by percussionist supreme Colin Currie — indeed, the piece was written for him — captures his great virtuosity. The piece would go one to win the Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.