BOOM Shaka-laka-laka!

Where were you when you first heard that?

Cover of LP "Stand!"

“Stand!” by Sly and the Family Stone

I was in the theater audience for the movie “Woodstock,” and I recall thinking even then that the section featuring Sly and the Family Stone was the high point of the film. Now, whenever I hear “I Want to Take You Higher,” which has the Boom-shaka-laka-laka bridge between verses, I visualize the long fringe, on Sly Stone’s jacket sleeves, flying through the air in slow motion.

The 1969 long-playing album “Stand!” by Sly and the Family Stone, which includes that song, not to mention the hit “Everyday People” and the title cut, is among 25 recordings being added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry for 2014. This designation is given to recordings regarded as having cultural, artistic or historical significance worthy of preservation for future generations.

This year’s recording registry additions (bringing the grand total of recordings so designated to 425) are a lively mix of rock, folk, pop, jazz, blues, religious and classical, some spoken-word, and some historic recordings.

For example, there’s “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford, who had a huge hit in 1955 with this song about a tough hombre who mines coal for a living: “You load 16 tons and what do you get? Another day older, and deeper in debt. Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go – I owe my soul to the company store.”

Ford, a popular bass-baritone, managed to put a lot of grit into his performance of the song even when he sang it with crystal-clear enunciation (he had classical voice training), wearing a tailored suit.

But to add true grit, this year’s recording registry also includes Blind Lemon Perkins’ 1928 recording of “Black Snake Moan” and “Match Box Blues.”

Joan Baez

Joan Baez Photo by William Claxton


Joan Baez’s first album recorded in 1960 and titled with her name is in this year’s registry. It is a collection of folksongs, sung in her bell-like voice with minimal accompaniment, committed to vinyl at the dawn of her long and productive career.

Also on this year’s list is jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s 1953 live concert version of “My Funny Valentine.” The Gerry Mulligan collection is held at the Library.

Lauryn Hill’s 1998 “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is on this year’s list, along with Radiohead’s 1997 album “OK Computer.” Ben E. King’s soulful “Stand By Me” (1961) is listed, along with the Righteous Brothers’ painful “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” from 1964.

The Doors’ eponymous first album (1967) is there, too – which includes not only the high-airplay “Light My Fire” and the highly regarded album cut “The End” but also their version of Kurt Weill’s wry, dry “Alabama Song,” better known by its lyric “Oh, show me/ the way/ to the next/ whiskey bar – No, don’t ask why.”

Touching base with history, there is a set of wax-cylinder recordings of sounds people captured at home between 1890 and 1910, collected by the University of California, Santa Barbara Library; radio coverage of the funeral of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, featuring a sobbing breakdown on the air by reporter Arthur Godfrey; 101 wax-cylinder recordings made of international displays presented at the 1893 World’s Fair at Chicago; and two Irish fiddle tunes laid down in 1922 by Michael Coleman, a violinist who kept this element of Eire real, both in his home nation and in the U.S.

Meanwhile, on the lighter side, the registry takes in Steve Martin’s 1978 LP of wacky bits from two standup shows, titled “A Wild And Crazy Guy” and an album that gathered together some of the best-loved songs from the show “Sesame Street.”

And in a nod to the rise of women in classical music, the 2014 registry includes “Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman,” recorded by the Colorado Symphony conducted by Marin Alsop. The 1999 album presents five fanfares written by composer Joan Tower celebrating “women who are adventurous and take risks” with each fanfare dedicated to a different woman of the music world. It is appropriate that the Colorado Symphony recorded this collection, in that Colorado was an early adapter to women on the concert-hall podium – not only Alsop but also Antonia Brico and JoAnn Falletta.







Wild Irish Foes

Today we’re going to add a new term to your broad vocabulary: Fenian. It’s a noun that describes a member of an Irish or Irish-American brotherhood dedicated to freeing Ireland from British dominion. The name was taken from the “Fianna,” a group of kings’ guards led by the legendary Irish leader of yore, Finn MacCool. […]

Library in the News: February 2015 Edition

The Library’s big headline for February was the opening of the Rosa Park Collection to researchers on Feb. 4, which was also the birthday of the civil-rights icon. “A cache of Parks’s papers set to be unveiled Tuesday at the Library of Congress portrays a battle-tested activist who had been steeped in the struggle against […]

About That Cannon in My Basement —

A few years ago – around 2001, 2002 – I had a cannon in my basement in Rockville, Maryland. You could see it through the front windows, where it was aimed. I wondered if the mailman would report us to Homeland Security. It wasn’t a real one, but it was incredibly realistic and man-o’war-size (about […]

Library in the News: January 2015 Edition

More than 112,000 patrons visited the Library of Congress exhibition “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor”  during its brief 10-week viewing, which ended Jan. 19. “Much has been written about Magna Carta’s current visit to America, particularly in relation to the inchoate liberties it birthed. Rightly so,” wrote Kevin R. Kosar for The Weekly Standard. “The […]

Alan Lomax’s Legacy

(The following is a story written by Stephen Winick, folklorist and writer-editor in the American Folklife Center, for the January/February 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. The issue can be read in its entirety here.) A century after his birth, folklorist Alan Lomax is remembered for his preservation of the nation’s cultural […]

Instrumentally Yours

The late 19th century gave rise to some truly imaginative, public-minded Americans. We all know about the Thomas Edisons, the Henry Fords, the Garrett Morgans. But there were others who, while not household names today, lived very interesting lives and left behind fascinating legacies. Among these we find Dayton C. Miller, born on a farm […]

Library in the News: November 2014 Edition

The Library of Congress featured prominently in November news with the opening of a special exhibition and the celebration of a special individual. On Nov. 6, “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” opened with much fanfare, featuring the 1215 Magna Carta, on loan from Lincoln Cathedral in England and one of only four surviving copies issued […]

Trending: A White Christmas

(The following is an article in the November/December 2014 issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine. The issue can be read in its entirety here.) As the holidays approach, the dream of a white Christmas is on many minds. A white Christmas is the stuff that dreams are made of, at least according to […]

A Prize for the Piano Man

Last Wednesday, the Library of Congress celebrated the music and career of singer-songwriter Billy Joel, awarding him the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. A star-studded cast walked a packed house at the DAR Constitution Hall through Joel’s own songbook during a tribute concert. I myself had the honor and privilege to also take the stage as a […]