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Program National Recording Preservation Board

2023

On April 12, 2023, these 25 recordings were added to the National Recording Registry.

Library of Congress press release announcing the 2023 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 2023 National Recording Registry

Recordings are listed in chronological order:

"The Very First Mariachi Recordings." Cuarteto Coculense. (1908-1909) (album)

El Periquito (The Parakeet) album cover
“El Periquito (The Parakeet)” album cover. Courtesy: Arhoolie

Mariachi music and its imagery are now emblematic of Mexican national identity, but it was once a rural style of music played mainly in the state of Jalisco. In 1908, four musicians from the town of Cocula, Jalisco, led by the vihuela player Justo Villa, made the very first recordings of it in Mexico City, where two years earlier they had introduced the style to the capital when they performed for the Mexican president Porfirio Diaz. These performances lack the trumpet now inextricably associated with mariachi, but even the early recording technology of the time could not fail to capture the group’s drive and spirit, and the recordings remained in print for many years. Thanks to the efforts of scholars and record collectors, the group’s work was collected and reissued in 1998 by Arhoolie Records, revisiting and reviving an otherwise lost chapter in mariachi’s history and paying overdue homage to these recording pioneers.

"St. Louis Blues" (single). Handy’s Memphis Blues Band. (1922)

W.C. Handy
W.C. Handy

Even during his lifetime, W.C. Handy was often called the “Father of the Blues.” And while he might not be responsible for an entire genre of music, there is little question that it was largely Handy’s creative output that ennobled the blues to cross America’s race and cultural lines. One of the songs he did it with was “St. Louis Blues,” which Handy both wrote and played. It was one of the first blues songs to enjoy success as a pop song. Later, the tune would be incorporated into the repertoire of numerous other legends including Bessie Smith, Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. Meanwhile, Handy, beyond his own composition and performing prowess, created detailed, written exegeses of blues music (including his own compositions) which have long served to educate others about the artistry of blues and aid in their appreciation for this American artform.

"Sugar Foot Stomp." Fletcher Henderson. (1925)

Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra
Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra. Courtesy: MCA/UMG

“Sugar Foot Stomp” was a milestone recording that incorporated jazz into a dance band setting. Henderson was one of the most successful African American bandleaders of his time. From its inception in 1921, his band played rather polite dance music, laced with a well-intended yet ponderous style of jazz, typically found in New York during the early 1920s. This changed suddenly upon the October 1924 arrival of New Orleans cornetist Louis Armstrong into the Henderson ensemble. Based on Armstrong’s collaboration with Joe Oliver’s “Dipper Mouth Blues,” “Sugar Foot Stomp” — in a smart, forward-looking arrangement by Don Redman — becomes streamlined and timelessly hip. Its most salient feature was the 36-bar solo by Armstrong, based on Oliver’s own “Dipper Mouth Blues” solo.

Dorothy Thompson: Commentary and Analysis of the European Situation for NBC Radio. (August 23-September 6, 1939)

Dorothy Thompson
Dorothy Thompson

Dorothy Thompson spent most of the 1920s and early 1930s in Europe, covering politics and culture throughout the continent as a print journalist, interviewing subjects as varied as Sigmund Freud and Adolph Hitler. From 1936 on, she wrote a thrice-weekly column, “On The Record,” in which she drew on her unique experience and knowledge of the issues and people in the news in the US and Europe. She also became a frequent presence on network radio, and in late August, 1939, as the European situation worsened and war was imminent, she made daily broadcasts on NBC analyzing developments during the last days of peace and the first days of war in Europe, which form a unique broadcast record of this complex period.

"Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around" (single). The Fairfield Four. (1947)

The Fairfield Four
The Fairfield Four. Courtesy: Country Music Hall of Fame

The Fairfield Four has represented the Jubilee style of a cappella quartet singing in the African-American church since their early days in Nashville, Tennessee, in the 1920s, a legacy carried on by the present incarnation of the group. At their second session for Nashville’s Bullet Records label in 1947, they recorded “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around,” a signature song that they would perform and re-record throughout their career. The Rev. Sam McCrary had been their lead tenor since 1940, powerfully sustaining words and syllables while the other members intoned their accompaniment. The song had been in the repertoire of others since the 1920s, but at a time when African-American religious music was changing rapidly, adding instruments and amplification in service of the message, the Fairfield Four broke through as the accomplished and passionate embodiment of the older Jubilee style, making their mark in the louder and faster postwar world of America.

"Sherry" (single). The Four Seasons. (1962)

The Four Seasons
The Four Seasons. Courtesy: Rhino

The Four Seasons was one of the most popular groups of the early and mid-1960s with more than 25 hits over a five-year period, and it all began in 1962 with their first single, “Sherry,” a crossover hit that topped the industry pop and R&B charts. With it, Seasons members Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi established their signature harmony sound, led by Valli’s three-octave range and soaring falsetto. Tenor Gaudio said it took him about 15 minutes to write the song, initially as a tribute to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy titled “Jackie Baby,” before it was renamed “Sherry” after the daughter of Gaudio’s close friend, New York radio DJ, Jack Spector. The Four Seasons are still one of the best-selling musical groups of all time, having sold an estimated 100 million records worldwide. The song, “Sherry,” continues to be used in popular culture in films, television and theater, including the Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys,” which chronicled the life and career of Frank Valli and The Four Seasons.

"What the World Needs Now is Love" (single). Jackie DeShannon. (1965)

What the World Needs... 45rpm dust jacket
"What the World Needs..." 45rpm dust jacket. Courtesy: Imperial/UMG

Even among the galaxy of beautiful, timeless songs co-written by the great songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, this lovely 1965 creation sparkles. But its lightness belies its very serious, timeless and (still) timely message. Bacharach — recipient of the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2012 — had the then raging Vietnam War in his mind during the song’s composition. Originally offered to the team’s frequent collaborator Dionne Warwick (who turned it down) they later made it available to singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon who used it to kick off her fourth album. For that recording, Bacharach arranged the song, conducted the orchestra and produced the session. Released as a single in March of 1965, it became one of DeShannon’s signature hits. DeShannon would win the Grammy that year for Female Vocal Performance, and the song evolved into a standard, not only for her treatment of it but for later cover versions by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Sergio Mendes, Barry Manilow and, eventually, even Dionne Warwick.

"Wang Dang Doodle" (single). Koko Taylor. (1966)

Koko Taylor
Koko Taylor. Courtesy: Black & Blue Records

The hard-charging authentic Chicago blues sounds of “Wang Dang Doodle” made for an unlikely hit in the spring of 1966, when poppier sounds from both the U.S. and England dominated the charts. But when Koko Taylor, born Cora Walton in Tennessee in 1935, teamed up with blues composer, bassist and producer Willie Dixon to record it, they hit pay dirt and made a blues standard of a song that had not clicked with audiences even when the great Howlin’ Wolf released a version five years earlier. Taylor sang the lyrics with gusto, backed by a crack team of players that included Buddy Guy on guitar, and the song’s rogues’ gallery of party guests that included “Automatic Slim” and “Razor Totin’ Jim” rocked jukeboxes and radios around the country. Taylor went on to become one of the great voices of Chicago Blues, recording more than a dozen albums and performing around the world until her death in 2009.

"Ode to Billie Joe" (single). Bobbie Gentry. (1967)

Ode to Billie Joe album cover
“Ode to Billie Joe” album cover. Courtesy: Capitol/UMG

Imagery, as vivid as any Southern Gothic novel, meets superlative storytelling and musicianship in this 1967 country classic. It was not, necessarily, a local death that singer/songwriter Bobbie Gentry wanted to explore with the writing of this song but, rather, the banality with which many of us greet and process news regarding the tragedy of others: “Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please.” Spare and arresting, and written and recorded when Gentry was only 25 years old, its release in July 1967 was a distinctive break from most country music of the era, and it resonated strongly with country, pop and R&B audiences. In 1976, “Ode” would inspire a big screen film adaptation and return to the charts, powered once more by its fable-like quality and its central mystery that we are still debating over 50 years since it was proffered to us.

"Déjà Vu" (album). Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. (1970)

Déjà vu album cover
“Déjà vu” album cover. Courtesy: Atlantic Records/WMG

The trio of David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash re-defined folk-rock and brought a new musical and lyrical maturity to the pop music scene with their eponymous 1969 debut album, and expectations were high for the first release by the expanded “supergroup” of four created by Neil Young’s arrival. Once again, the combination proved far more than the sum of its parts, even though the four found it hard to work together in the studio and the album was largely recorded in individual sessions. Stephen Stills estimates that the album took 800 hours of studio time. While that may be exaggerated, the band’s meticulous attention to detail coupled with the patience and skill of engineer Bill Halvorson, made “Déjà Vu” one of the most iconic albums of the last 50 years. “Déjà Vu” found its audience immediately, and remains the highest-selling album of each member’s career to date, with over eight million copies sold. The three singles released from it: “Woodstock,” “Teach Your Children,” and “Our House” were AM and FM hits at the time and have each proved to be enduring, defining songs of early 1970s rock.

"Imagine" (single). John Lennon. (1971)

John Lennon
John Lennon. Courtesy: LC/Prints and Photographs

Even among the litany of breathtakingly beautiful songs written by John Lennon, either alone, with the Beatles or with his wife, Yoko Ono (as this song was), his “Imagine” resonates. The best-selling single of Lennon’s solo-career, “Imagine” with its lyrical plea of moving beyond materialism and nationalism and towards a worldwide peace, has become a balm and anthem for people in difficult times. It has been performed at Olympic ceremonies, at tributes to the victims of war, and at memorial services worldwide. Since 1986, the original “Imagine” has been played in New York City every New Year’s Eve as its glittery ball drops signifying the end of one time and the start of a new. Over the years, “Imagine” has been one of the globe’s most often covered songs, with significant versions performed by everyone from Elton John and Lady Gaga to Dolly Parton, Diana Ross and David Bowie. From the song’s debut in 1971, its lyrics have been equal parts heartfelt and thought-provoking (and sometimes controversial) and have been rendered all the more poignant, now, in light of Lennon’s tragic, untimely death in 1980.

"Stairway to Heaven" (single). Led Zeppelin. (1971)

Led Zepplin
Led Zepplin, c. 1971. Courtesy: Island/UMG

The familiarity of “Stairway to Heaven” can obscure the fact that it is a carefully crafted song. Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist and producer, was responsible for much of the song’s structure and feel. Early in his career as a studio musician, Page had learned that one of the cardinal rules of studio work was to keep an even tempo and resist the urge to speed up at all costs. Ironically, “Stairway to Heaven” violates this rule to masterful effect, as it gradually increases speed, while adding instruments one at a time. First, we hear a lone acoustic guitar, soon a recorder enters, and, as the sound broadens, we hear vocals, a 12-string guitar and bass. Remarkably, the drums don’t enter until half way through the eight-minute song. As it gains momentum, the acoustic instruments fall away and we find ourselves listening to a fully electric hard-rock band. Bassist John Paul Jones contributed the recorder melody, lending a medieval feel to the song’s early measures. He and drummer John Bonham’s rhythm activities build to their usual huge and thunderous level. Few can imitate Robert Plant’s singing, and his lyrics, most of which were written during the band’s rehearsals, have appealed to a wide range of fans, while proving open to a bewildering number of interpretations. Finally, Page recorded one of the most tasteful solos in rock music.

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" (single). John Denver. (1971)

John Denver
John Denver

Though the song clearly celebrates West Virginia, its inspiration actually occurred on the winding highways of the east coast — rural Maryland, with a little nostalgic influence from the New England states. It was there, on one of those byways, that two of the song’s co-writers, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert (later to become two-thirds of the Starland Vocal Band), struck upon the feelings and imagery for the song that would become “Take Me Home….” Later, in December 1970, the duo met up with singer/songwriter John Denver at a New York City gig they were both playing. After they shared the song with him, Denver added the song’s bridge and later recorded it for his fourth album. It became that album’s first single and his breakout, career-making hit. “Take Me Home…” went on to define much of Denver’s career while also becoming a family and sing-along favorite, hitting a common ground simultaneously shared by the genres of country, folk and pop.

"Margaritaville" (single). Jimmy Buffett. (1977)

Jimmy Buffet
Jimmy Buffet. Courtesy: UMG

Though he began his career as a country-folk artist in Nashville in the late 1960s, it was after an early ‘70s move to Key West that Buffett seemed to find the direction, niche and even persona that would not only endure but also endear him to many generations. Buffett seemed to have created his own genre of music, one that takes life easy, enjoys the beach, the sun, the wind and waves, no matter where one happens to be. It was Buffett’s second release, 1973’s “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean” that began his transformation but it became fully realized in 1977 with the release of the LP “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” And that was thanks largely to its breakthrough song “Margaritaville.” The song stayed on industry charts from April to September, scoring with pop and country audiences alike, as well as teenagers and adults. And, today, its lyrics are as memorized as any song in history, “Margaritaville” is as well known and omni-present as ever — a regular component of bars, beach parties, karaoke and any place cool vibes are required.

"Flashdance…What a Feeling" (single). Irene Cara. (1983)

Flashdance movie poster
Flashdance movie poster

A film about a determined young woman who dreams of living her life in the spotlight doing what she loves to do — dance — needed a song that fully embodied and echoed that very sentiment. In 1983, that movie was “Flashdance,” and to fashion that all-important title track, the filmmakers turned to some experts in the field of music for movies: Giorgio Moroder, Irene Cara and Keith Forsey. Their result not only worked perfectly for the final, climatic moment of the film but sprung out from it to become a major radio hit that lasted 25 weeks on the pop chart, 14 of them in the top 10. While Moroder — as he had done for previous soundtrack songs like Blondie’s “Call Me” — created the pulsating melody, Forsey and Cara, the latter already an icon for her “Fame” success, produced the lyrics, which Cara sang with her characteristic fervor and, indeed, passion. Since its ride on the charts, “Flashdance,” the song, has emerged as an enduring anthem for anyone working to prove the doubters wrong.

"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" (single). Eurythmics. (1983)

Eurythmics
Eurythmics

David Stewart and Annie Lennox, popularly known as Eurythmics, had enjoyed some chart success prior to the release of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” but this synth-pop song with its propulsive drum and synth line proved their breakthrough hit. Stewart remembers the track coming together very quickly in a recording session that had initially demoralized Lennox so much that she had fallen on the floor in despair. Stewart was continuing to wrestle with his drum machine, failing to produce the sound he wanted, when Lennox perked up, asking, “What’s that?” She quickly seized a synth, set it on a string ensemble sound, and with Stewart’s addition of one more synth, the rhythm track was complete. Lennox then wrote the bulk of the lyrics on the spot. With the addition of one more section, they had created one of the most recognizable tracks in pop.

"Synchronicity" (album). The Police. (1983)

Synchronicity album cover
“Synchronicity” album cover. Courtesy: A&M/UMG

For their final studio album, which eventually garnered three Grammy awards, The Police gave us a five-year distillation of their previous work that included punk, reggae, and jazz, and a sophisticated sense of melodic line and harmony that echoed the previous 50 years of classic popular song. Instead of an obvious fusion, the musical divisions are so neatly layered and dovetailed that one cannot help but not notice. It is all a dream-like musical tour: from the title song’s hypnotic and somewhat off-balance feel, to the plaintive and heart-wrenching “King of Pain,” to the ear-catching intervallic leaps and magical layering of “Tea in the Sahara.” The Police represented, not a pastiche, but a stylistic ethos. In 1988, Police singer and bassist Sting warned of not labeling music, “The labeling process limits it…gives people prejudice, when they should just be listening to music.”

"Like a Virgin" (album). Madonna. (1984)

Like a Virgin album cover
“Like a Virgin” album cover. Courtesy: Sire Records/WMG

Madonna began her cultural ascent with her self-named debut album in 1983. But, even then, few could have predicted the worldwide domination she would achieve, starting on the dance floor, with her follow-up collection, “Like a Virgin.” Madonna was taking greater control of her musical output and skillfully integrating her image with the world mood of the moment. The album did much to solidify the early iconography of the soon-to-be legend — from the bridal dress to the “Boy Toy” belt buckle — but it is the music that endures. Collaborating with the equally legendary Nile Rodgers, Madonna proved no one could craft pop quite like her. Of the nine songs originally included on the album, four became top 10 hits, and a fifth, “Into the Groove,” which was added to a latter pressing, also was a smash. With 21 million copies of this album sold, the influence of Madonna and this album especially — catchy, controversial, coy — has yet to abate, and the beats have yet to stop.

"Black Codes (From the Underground)" (album). Wynton Marsalis. (1985)

Black Codes album cover
“Black Codes” album cover. Courtesy: Columbia Records/Sony

“Black Codes (From the Underground)” is regarded as one of Wynton Marsalis’ most beloved and artistically successful recordings. In contrast with the electronic and funk-infused jazz of the 1970s, these recordings hearken back to the acoustic jazz of the 1950s and ’60s, but with a distinctly 1980s flair and virtuosity. Aided by Marsalis’s brother Branford, the brilliant playing by everyone defined the era, and launched the group that came to be known as the “Young Lions.” Drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, bassist Charnett Moffett and pianist Kenny Kirkland play with muscular assurance, and a guest appearance by bassist Ron Carter, an alumnus of the second Miles Davis quintet, gives a seal of approval on this new take on 1960’s post-bop jazz. Recorded when he was only 23 years old, “Black Codes” won two Grammy awards that year, including Best Jazz Instrumental Performance-Group. Two years later, in 1987, Wynton Marsalis would help start the Classical Jazz summer concert series at Lincoln Center in New York City and the Jazz at Lincoln Center department, which continues today.

Super Mario Bros. theme. Koji Kondo, composer. (1985)

Koji Kondo
Koji Kondo, composer

Perhaps the most recognizable video game theme in history, Koji Kondo's main motif for the 1985 Nintendo classic, “Super Mario Bros.,” helped establish the game's legendary status and proved that the five-channel Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) sound chip was capable of vast musical complexity and creativity. The game's main theme, or “Ground Theme,” is a jaunty, Latin-influenced melody that provides the perfect accompaniment to Mario and Luigi's side scrolling hijinks. Kondo's score laid the groundwork for an entire generation of chiptune musicians and has been performed by orchestras around the globe, befitting its status as one of the most beloved musical compositions of the last 40 years. 

"All Hail the Queen" (album). Queen Latifah. (1989)

All Hail the Queen album cover
“All Hail the Queen” album cover. Courtesy: Tommy Boy

The release of Queen Latifah’s debut album “All Hail the Queen” in 1989 solidified the success of her past singles while also announcing that rap could be female, Afrocentric, and incorporate a fusion of musical genres. Those genres include reggae, as well as hip-hop, house and jazz as she raps in the song, “Come Into My House.” Moreover, Queen Latifah sang as well as rapped on the album. Lyrically, the album addresses race, gender, political and social issues that were contemporary and yet remain universal. The album was released when Queen Latifah was 19 years old. Born Dana Elaine Owens in New Jersey, Queen Latifah was not the first female rapper, but her work with other female rappers, like Monie Love, on both the single and the video for “Ladies First,” opened a new door for discussion about gender in rap. The success of “All Hail the Queen” was both a product of, and led to, Queen Latifah’s success in other areas of media.

"All I Want for Christmas is You" (single). Mariah Carey. (1994)

Merry Christmas album cover
“Merry Christmas” album cover. Courtesy: Columbia/Sony

For the past 40 years, the lower rungs of the pop chart have been littered with attempts to launch a new Christmas standard, a song for the season to modernize the feelings that Bing Crosby and Mel Torme had so resoundingly put onto disc decades before. None of them had ever endured, however, nor taken their place with those previous hits and all the classic Christmas hymns and carols. That was until 1994 when, for her fourth collection, Carey went into the studio to make the now almost obligatory holiday album. For it, she laid down 10 songs, most of them holiday favorites like “Silent Night” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” But, in the mix, she and collaborator/producer Walter Afanasieff (a.k.a. Baby Love) also contributed this original tune. The song was first released in October 1994, but, now, almost like Christmas itself, the song comes back again and again; it continues to chart every year. In fact, each year since 2000, the song has even charted higher than the year before! “All I Want…” has now gone 12 times platinum and is the best-selling holiday song ever recorded by a female artist.

"Pale Blue Dot." Carl Sagan. (1994)

Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan. Courtesy: LC/Prints and Photographs

Few people understood astronomy, planetary science and astrophysics like Carl Sagan, and even fewer could communicate it in a way that makes us think and feel a deeper connection with the universe. In 1990, as the space probe Voyager 1 was finishing its final mission, Sagan asked NASA to take a photo of Earth in a wide shot across the great span of space. The photo and concept resulted in Sagan’s 1994 book, “Pale Blue Dot,” and reminds us of the humility of being the only known species in the solar system and beyond. Reading the words is one thing, but hearing the recording, in Sagan’s own voice, really paints the perspective on how vast the universe is and the responsibility of our existence. As Sagan so eloquently speaks, “It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”

"Gasolina" (single). Daddy Yankee. (2004)

Daddy Yankee
Daddy Yankee. Courtesy: El Cartel/UMG

Its roots source back to Panama, Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries in the 1980s. The genre now called “reggaeton” was originally described as Reggae, reggae en español, dancehall, hip-hop and dembow. But despite its genesis 30 years prior, reggaeton was only truly ignited with the debut of Daddy Yankee’s massive, seismic-shifting 2004 hit “Gasolina.” A song by a Latin artist first released to Latin radio, “Gasolina’s” unparalleled success quickly poured over every border, musically and geographically, hitting big with a wide swath of audiences. “Gasolina’s” aural dominance was so great that it ushered in a full reggaeton explosion and even saw various radio stations switching their formats — some even switching from English language to Spanish — to be part of the reggaeton revolution. “Barrio Fino,” the album which includes “Gasolina,” debuted at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart, and “Gasolina” was the first reggaeton nominee for a Latin Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Not surprisingly, “Gasolina” is the first reggaeton recording to be added to the National Registry.

"Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra." Chamber Music Northwest. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, composer. (2012)

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Courtesy: E. Taaffe Zwilich

Composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich had already written the first movement of this work when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place. Clarinetist David Shifrin leads the Chamber Music Northwest on this live recording made in Portland, Oregon, in 2004. He and several members of the ensemble had performed its premiere a year earlier, and their feeling for it comes through in the buoyancy of the first movement, suggesting the hustle and bustle of a normal working day in New York City, and in the violence, anger and sorrow of the rest of the day expressed in the subsequent movements. The 2012 CD release of this performance, and its enduring impact and reputation, are singular for a 21st century classical recording.