Ten Years of Touchstones

The cover of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

"A Charlie Brown Christmas," the record album

One of the sad facts about the commercialization of the holiday season – for me, anyway — is that many Christmas carols I related to as a child have become so much sonic wallpaper.

On a positive note, though, my inner ear has anointed some tunes as “ex officio” holiday music – the entire Beatles album “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” for example, because my brother brought it home during holiday break from college the year it came out.  Similar status has been achieved by those wonderful jazz piano riffs by the Vince Guaraldi Trio – the ones that backed the Charlie Brown TV specials.

So I’m pleased that the soundtrack album to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by the trio is among this year’s 10th-anniversary additions to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. Considering that the registry is chosen, each year, based on nominations, apparently Guaraldi and the Peanuts gang have leaked into other people’s collective subconscious as well.

This year’s list of 25 recordings deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant and therefore worthy of preservation range from the rare or singular to touchstones that form the soundtrack to people’s lives. Next year’s list is now being nominated – if you have suggestions, you can make them here.

You’ve got everything from the Thomas Edison company’s 1888 attempt to put a voice recording inside a doll (it didn’t work out very well — two other firms succeeded at this before the famous “Chatty Cathy” of the 1960s) and the Hawaiian slack-key guitar music of Gabby Pahinui (said to have influenced guitarists Ry Cooder, Leo Kottke and John Fahey) to the late Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” an anthem from the Disco era, and “Purple Rain” by Prince and the Revolution.

You’ve got interviews with U.S. citizens who were freed from slavery; a live performance by the Grateful Dead; Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors”; two signature tunes by the great Bo Diddley; and the New York Philharmonic conducting debut of one of the most famous classical-music conductors of the 20th century, Leonard Bernstein.

The 2012 list:

1.    Edison Talking Doll cylinder (1888)

2.    “Come Down Ma Evenin’ Star,” Lillian Russell (1912)

3.    “Ten Cents a Dance,” Ruth Etting (1930)

4.    “Voices from the Days of Slavery,” Various speakers (1932-1941 interviews; 2002 compilation)

5.    “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” Patsy Montana (1935)

6.    “Fascinating Rhythm,” Sol Hoopii and his Novelty Five (1938)

7.    “Artistry in Rhythm,” Stan Kenton & and his Orchestra (1943)

8.    Debut performance with the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (Nov. 14, 1943)

9.    International Sweethearts of Rhythm: Hottest Women’s Band of the 1940s (1944-1946)

10.                  “The Indians for Indians Hour” (March 25, 1947)

11.                  “Hula Medley,” Gabby Pahinui (1947)

12.                  “I Can Hear It Now,” Fred W. Friendly and Edward R. Murrow (1948)

13.                  “Let’s Go Out to the Programs,” The Dixie Hummingbirds (1953)

14.                  “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1954, 1958)

15.                  “Bo Diddley” and “I’m a Man,” Bo Diddley (1955)

16.                  “Green Onions,” Booker T. & the M.G.’s (1962)

17.                  “Forever Changes,” Love (1967)

18.                  “The Continental Harmony: Music of William Billings,” Gregg Smith Singers (1969)

19.                  “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Vince Guaraldi Trio (1970)

20.                  “Coat of Many Colors,” Dolly Parton (1971)

21.                  “Mothership Connection,” Parliament (1975)

22.                  Barton Hall concert by the Grateful Dead (May 8, 1977)

23.                  “I Feel Love,” Donna Summer (1977)

24.                  “Rapper’s Delight,” Sugarhill Gang (1979)

25.                  “Purple Rain,” Prince and the Revolution (1984)

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