The Librarian of Congress and the National Recording Preservation Board have released this year’s choices for the prestigious National Recording Registry — and as always, it’s a veritable sonic smorgasbord of terrific stuff, from many genres. The selections are made to ensure the preservation for posterity of sound recordings with cultural, artistic or historical merit.
- The haunting Jeff Buckley version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Buckley’s 1994 take is remarkable; the song itself has gone around the world several times, sung by its author, by John Cale, even by contestants on American Idol. Like many songs written by Cohen, it has arresting lyrics (“It goes like this – the fourth, the fifth – the minor fall, the major lift …”) Another verse notes, “All I ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you. “
- “The Laughing Song” by George Washington Johnson, who in addition to having an infectious laugh that made his recording into a nationwide bestseller was a key figure in recording history as the first African-American recording artist. (You can hear this song, recorded in 1903, on the Library’s National Jukebox website.)
- Art Blakey’s 1954 jazz album, “A Night at Birdland.”
- Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 song “Fortunate Son.” I remember smiling when I first took in this song’s opening lyric: “Some folks are born, made to wave the flag, ooh, they’re red white and blue! / And when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief,’ ooh, they point the cannon at you! / It ain’t me – it ain’t me – I ain’t no senator’s son.”
- Slide guitarist Elmore James’ 1951 version of the blues classic “Dust My Broom.” I defy you not to be moving around to the music, even if you’re sitting in a chair, by the fourth bar of this one.
- The 1974 composer-conducted recording of Aaron Copland’s classical-music classic, “Appalachian Spring” (the musical component of a dance presentation choreographed by Martha Graham and premiered right here at the Library of Congress in 1944).
- U2’s 1987 album “The Joshua Tree.”
- Linda Ronstadt’s 1974 album “Heart Like A Wheel.”
- Isaac Hayes’ 1971 soundtrack album, including the “Theme From Shaft,” now part of the vernacular.
- The 1966 Carnegie Hall concert by Buck Owens and his Buckaroos.
The full list of 25 new selections, with background on all of the artists, is here.
You can, and should, nominate sound recordings (all kinds are eligible) to the National Recording Registry. To find out more, look here.