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Your Life Flashes Before Your … Ears?

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This year’s selections for the National Recording Registry were announced today —   the ninth annual addition to a list now totaling 325 recordings deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant and worthy of preservation for all time.

According to the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian of Congress – with input from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board – annually chooses 25 sound recordings of special significance to be preserved.  The recordings must be at least 10 years old.

Nominations are solicited from the public and from members of the NRPB, which is made up of leaders in the fields of music, recorded sound and preservation.  If you have a recording you’d like to nominate, go to the registry website and you can put in your suggestion.

Because these recordings are so varied, it’s easy to find a number of familiar recordings on this year’s list or the overall registry.  Further, because they cover so much of recording history, there’s also a sense of flashback.

For example, “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” by the Sons of the Pioneers (1934).  That song was on an LP of cowboy songs my family used to listen to when I was a kid.  More recently, it was used as the opening music to the Coen brothers’ movie “The Big Lebowski.”  Actual tumbleweeds were a regular late-summer phenomenon, out where I grew up.

Or, the “Music from Peter Gunn” by Henry Mancini (1958).  I used to watch reruns of “Peter Gunn” on our old black-and-white TV, again as a child.  You’ve heard of “film noir?” This was “TV noir.”

How about “Blind Joe Death” by John Fahey (1959, 1964, 1967)?  I dated a guy back in college who was a rabid fan of the guitar legend John Fahey.  We listened to Fahey, and Leo Kottke, by the hour.

“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green (1971) … I once got to interview Al Green for the weekend section of a long-defunct newspaper I interned for in Memphis, Tennessee.  He was cool.

The Library of Congress keeps the recordings in the registry available for you, your kids, and your kids’ children.  It includes music, radio broadcasts, speeches, comedy – bet you can find a soundtrack to your life there, too.


1.  Phonautograms – Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville (1853-1861)

2.  Take Me Out to the Ballgame – Edward Meeker (1908)

3.  Recordings of Ishi, the Last Yahi Indian – Ishi (1915)

4.  Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – Blind Willie Johnson (1927)

5.  It’s the Girl – The Boswell Sisters (1931)

6.  Mal Hombre – Lydia Mendoza (1934)

7.  Tumbling Tumbleweeds – Sons of the Pioneers (1934)

8.  Talking Union – The Almanac Singers (1941)

9.  Jazz at the Philharmonic  Nat “King” Cole, Les Paul et. al. (1944)

10.  Missa Papae Marcelli…Roger Wagner Chorale (1951)

11.  The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest – Rev. C.L. Franklin (c. 1953)

12.  Tipitina – Professor Longhair (1953)

13.  Mort Sahl: At Sunset – Mort Sahl (1955)

14.  VOA Jazz Radio Broadcasts – Willis Conover (1956)

15.  Theme from “Peter Gunn”  – Henry Mancini (1958)

16.  United Sacred Harp Musical Convention in Fyffe, Alabama (recorded by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins (September 12, 1959)

17.  Blind Joe Death – John Fahey (1959, 1964, 1967)

18.  Stand By Your Man – Tammy Wynette (1968)

19.  Trout Mask Replica – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (1969)

20.  Songs of the Humpback Whales – Roger Payne (1970)

21.  Let’s Stay Together – Al Green (1971)

22.  Black Angels (Thirteen Images from the Dark Land) for Electronic String Quartet – The New York Strings Quartet (1972) (Composers Recording Inc)

23.  Aja – Steely Dan (1977)

24.  3 Feet High and Rising – De La Soul (1989)

25  GOPAC Audio Instruction Series – Newt Gingrich, (c. 1986-1994)


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