Brett Zongker, chief of the Library’s public relations team, contributed to this article.
The 2022 Class of the National Recording Registry includes albums such as Alicia Keys’ “Songs in A Minor” and singles such as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” along with with important inductions of hip-hop and Latin music, including recordings by Linda Ronstadt, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan and the Buena Vista Social Club.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today named 25 recordings ̶̶ from a list of nominees by the public and by the National Recording Preservation Board ̶̶ as audio treasures worthy of formal preservation, based on their cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation’s recorded sound heritage.
“The National Recording Registry reflects the diverse music and voices that have shaped our nation’s history and culture,” Hayden said. “The national library is proud to help preserve these recordings, and we welcome the public’s input. We received about 1,000 public nominations this year.”
There are now 600 recordings on the registry, a miniscule portion of the Library’s collection of nearly 4 million recorded items.
“This is the greatest honor of my life,” said Steve Perry, former lead singer for Journey, citing his family’s history as Portuguese immigrants to a small town in California. “I’ve gotten platinum albums and gold albums and I’ve gotten inducted into the Hall of Fame. But for my mother, my father, my grandmother and grandfather, I am truly beside myself that this is happening…it’s an ‘only in America’ kind of thing.”
Alicia Keys, who burst onto the national music scene as a teen prodigy with her 2001 debut album, “Songs in A Minor,” credited her youthful sincerity and original appearance for the album’s lasting resonance.
“It was so pure,” she said with a smile during in a recent interview. “You felt the truth that was coming from me. I think that the New York-ness in me was definitely a new energy. People hadn’t quite seen a woman in Timberlands and cornrows and really straight 100% off of the streets of New York performing classical music and mixing it with soul music and R&B and these songs that had big choruses and meaning … and people could find themselves in it.”
The latest selections named to the registry span from 1921 to 2010. They range from rock, pop, R&B, hip-hop and country to Latin, Motown, jazz and news broadcasts. The new class includes speeches by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, WNYC’s broadcasts on 9/11 and Marc Maron’s podcast interview with comedian Robin Williams.
Interviews with several of this year’s artists ̶ including Keys, Perry, Maron and songwriter Desmond Child ̶ are featured on the Library’s website and across social media channels. There will be radio interviews on NPR’s “1A” with several artists in the series, “The Sounds of America. Here on the blog, we’ll feature stories with many of the artists starting tomorrow.
Several recordings joining the registry were influential in helping to deepen the genres of Latin, rap, hip-hop and R&B in American culture. A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 album, “The Low End Theory” was the group’s second studio release and came to be seen as a definitive fusion of jazz and rap.
Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” would shape the sound of hardcore rap and reasserted the creative capacity of the East Coast rap scene. The group’s individual artists would go on to produce affiliated projects that deepened the group’s influence for decades.
While Linda Ronstadt is best known for her work in pop music, in 1987 she paid tribute to her Mexican heritage with her album, “Canciones de Mi Padre,” recorded with four distinguished mariachi bands. The album went double platinum, won a Grammy and is the biggest-selling non-English recording in American recording history.
“I always thought they were world-class songs,” Ronstadt said in an interview with the Library. “And I thought they were songs that the music could transcend the language barrier.”
While she was learning the music and lyrics, Ronstadt said she never worked so hard in her life. By the time she opened a show for the album in San Antonio, it all paid off.
“I looked out to the faces of the audience; it was packed,” Ronstadt said. “There were three generations of families there. They all sang along with the songs. They knew them all. It was really fun.”
When guitarist Ry Cooder and producer Nick Gold assembled an all-star ensemble of 20 Cuban musicians in 1996, the island’s Buena Vista Social Club was reborn to record some of the key Cuban musical styles of son, danzón and bolero. The album’s surprising popularity helped fuel a resurgence of Cuban and Latin music, propelled the band to concert dates in Amsterdam and New York City’s Carnegie Hall and led to a popular film by director Wim Wenders.
Soon after, a young Puerto Rican singer named Ricky Martin shook things up with “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” a worldwide smash hit in 1999. Written by Draco Rosa and Desmond Child, the song went to No. 1 in 20 countries and was certified platinum in the U.S., the UK and Australia. It remained at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks. It was named the ASCAP Song of the Year, the BMI Latin Awards Song of the Year and won four Grammys.
“I believe that the energy of a movement is what dominates in that song about Latinos, the empowerment of Latinos,” said Rosa in Spanish. “Life is full of great suffering, and ‘La Vida Loca’ is the total opposite. Let’s live it up, right?!”
Here’s this year’s complete list in chronological order:
- “Harlem Strut” — James P. Johnson (1921)
- Franklin D. Roosevelt: Complete Presidential Speeches (1933-1945)
- “Walking the Floor Over You” — Ernest Tubb (1941) (single)
- “On a Note of Triumph” (May 8, 1945)
- “Jesus Gave Me Water” — The Soul Stirrers (1950) (single)
- “Ellington at Newport” — Duke Ellington (1956) (album)
- “We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite” — Max Roach (1960) (album)
- “The Christmas Song” — Nat King Cole (1961) (single)
- “Tonight’s the Night” — The Shirelles (1961) (album)
- “Moon River” — Andy Williams (1962) (single)
- “In C” — Terry Riley (1968) (album)
- “It’s a Small World” — The Disneyland Boys Choir (1964) (single)
- “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” — The Four Tops (1966) (single)
- Hank Aaron’s 715th Career Home Run (April 8, 1974)
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” — Queen (1975) (single)
- “Don’t Stop Believin’” — Journey (1981) (single)
- “Canciones de Mi Padre” — Linda Ronstadt (1987) (album)
- “Nick of Time” — Bonnie Raitt (1989) (album)
- “The Low End Theory” — A Tribe Called Quest (1991) (album)
- “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” — Wu-Tang Clan (1993) (album)
- “Buena Vista Social Club” (1997) (album)
- “Livin’ La Vida Loca” — Ricky Martin (1999) (single)
- “Songs in A Minor” — Alicia Keys (2001) (album)
- WNYC broadcasts for the day of 9/11 (Sept. 11, 2001)
- “WTF with Marc Maron” (Guest: Robin Williams) (April 26, 2010)
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This is really cool! I love Alicia and Ricky! Definitley took me back to my child and teen years with this article.
I’m glad to see that Canciones de Mi Padre has been recognized (as well as “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” and the Nat King Cole recording of “The Christmas Song” — and Ernest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor Over You” (and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s recorded speeches — although I have not myself heard much from those (partly because I was born over 15 years after he died).
I understand the popularity of placing in the Library of Congress’s blogs interviews with living artists and/or content concerning songs remembered by lots of persons who remember when the recordings when they were released — but I hope that there might be discussion of older pieces like “Walking the Floor Over You” and that December perennial “The Christmas Song” (and of the no-longer-living artists whose recordings of these songs have been honored).
(Also, could there be some mention of why “Harlem Strut” (which I do not myself know) was honored?)
Thanks for the announcement of the list.