The Library of Congress has announced the third annual addition of 50 sound recordings to the National Recording Registry. Criteria for selection include musical, spoken or other recorded sounds at least ten years old, and “those that are culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.” Recipients are set aside for special preservation.
- “Gypsy Love Song.” Eugene Cowles. (1898)
Victor Herbert’s 1898 operetta, The Fortune Teller, was the composer’s first popular success for the stage. The Berliner Gramophone Company captured bass Eugene Cowles’s performance of one of the operetta’s hit songs, “Gypsy Love Song,” on what was one of the very first “original cast recordings.”
“Some of these days.” Sophie Tucker. (1911)
Vaudeville singer and comedienne Sophie Tucker first recorded her signature song for the Edison company on cylinder. It was the beginning of a recordings career that extended nearly 50 years. The Sheldon Brooks song was an ideal vehicle for the earthy star known as “the Last of the Red-Hot Mamas.”
“The Castles in Europe One-Step (Castle House Rag).” Europe’s Society Orchestra. (1914)
James Reese Europe was the first black bandleader to record in the United States and was the personal conductor for the immensely popular dancing team of the 1910’s, Irene and Vernon Castle. Reese’s recordings were important stepping-stones in the development of jazz. They exhibit a frenetic quality, with more looseness and greater syncopation than heard in other dance bands of the era.
“Swanee.” Al Jolson. (1920)
George Gershwin and Irving Caesar’s song, “Swanee,” was interpolated into the show, Sinbad, for Al Jolson. The song became Gershwin’s first hit and remained associated with Al Jolson throughout his career. This recording captures the energy of Gershwin’s song and Jolson’s unique ability to “put over” a song with exuberance.
Armistice Day broadcast by Woodrow Wilson. (1923)
This recording of former President Woodrow Wilson made by phonograph technician Frank L. Capps is earliest surviving sound recording of a regular radio broadcast. It is also believed to be the earliest known example of a recording made by electrical, rather than acoustic, means.
“See See Rider blues.” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey. (1923)
“Ma” Rainey, called by some “the mother of the blues,” was a pioneering blues artist whose career began as a tent show and vaudeville performer. She is credited with influencing many blues singers, most notably, Bessie Smith. Although others recorded blues songs before Rainey and had begun to refine the genre, her recordings retain the powerful directness and poignancy that made her famous. Rainey made numerous recordings for the Paramount label; this recording is from a session she recorded with Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson.
“Charleston.” Golden Gate Orchestra. (1925)
The band on this Edison disc recording included such notable musicians as Red Nichols, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, and Adrian Rollini. The selection represents the Edison Disc Record Master Mold Collection at the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, New Jersey. The Edison Phonograph Works used these metal molds to mass-produce disc records from 1910 to 1929 and as such, are the generation closest to original wax master. They are the best-sounding sources for Edison disc recordings, as well as the most stable, archivally.
“Fascinating Rhythm” from Lady, Be Good! Fred and Adele Astaire; George Gershwin, piano. (1926)
Lady Be Good!, George and Ira Gershwin’s debut Broadway score, produced such standards as “Fascinating Rhythm” and “Oh, Lady Be Good.” The show starred siblings Fred and Adele Astaire. Several songs from the score were recorded in 1926 when the musical was touring in London. The recordings offer an opportunity to appreciate the innocent appeal of Adele, who retired from show business in 1932, and the piano accompaniments of composer George Gershwin.
NBC radio broadcast coverage of Charles A. Lindbergh’s arrival and reception in Washington, D.C. (1927)
NBC radio’s June 11, 1927, coverage of the arrival of Charles A. Lindbergh in Washington D.C., was a landmark technical, as well as journalistic, achievement for the fledgling network. Radio reporters were stationed at the three locations in Washington to provide successive, ‘live’ descriptions of the pilot’s arrival: the Washington Navy Yard; the procession along Pennsylvania Avenue; and his reception at the foot of the Washington Monument by President Calvin Coolidge. The voices of both President Coolidge and Colonel Lindbergh as they spoke were heard by the listeners who could tune into the broadcasts of the young radio network.
“Stardust.” Hoagy Carmichael. (1927)
“Stardust” was songwriter Hoagy Carmichael’s first great success. It was performed at a rapid tempo when it was first recorded in 1927 by “Hoagy Carmichael [on piano] and his Pals.” In later, slower interpretations, “Stardust” became one of the most recorded ballads in jazz and popular repertories. Lyrics were added to the song in 1931.
“Blue Yodel (T for Texas).” Jimmie Rodgers. (1927)
The “blue yodels” of Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music,” helped to define the country music. Rodgers’s compositions and recorded performances combined black and white musical forms and popularized American rural music traditions.
The great producer and talent scout Ralph Peer went to Victor in ‘25, where in addition to founding the modern country music publishing business with Southern Music (his deal with Victor allowed him to solicit publishing rights for any song he recorded), he produced an incredible series of blues and country records on the road in Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis and Charlotte with Jimmie Davis, Sleepy John Estes, Alberta Hunter, Tommy Johnson, Furry Lewis, Blind Willie McTell, Frank Stokes, and countless others. But his most famous discoveries took place in Bristol, Tennessee, in August of ‘27, where he found Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933) and the Carter Family.
Peer’s recordings with the great Rodgers included the various “Blue Yodels,” “The Soldier’s Sweetheart,” “Waiting For a Train,” and the rest of the Singing Brakeman’s classic catalog before his death from tuberculosis in ‘33.
- “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Thomas “Fats” Waller. (1929)
“Fats” Waller’s solo piano recording of his now-classic composition,”Ain’t Misbehavin’,” preserves the composer’s inventive talents as a one of jazz’s greatest pianists. Waller developed the “stride” piano tradition to a new level of musical expression.
“Gregorio Cortez.” Trovadores Regionales. (1929)
This vocal duet with guitar, by Pedro Rocha and Lupe Martinez, is an outstanding example of the “corridos” style of ballad. Reflecting the cultural conflicts between Mexican-Americans and Anglo-Americans in the American Southwest, it describes the heroics of a vaquero falsely accused of murder. The Vocalion recording of “Gregorio Cortez” is representative of the significant recordings being preserved in the Arhoolie Foundation’s Strachwitz Frontera Collection of commercially produced Mexican and Mexican-American Recordings at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Sergei Rachmaninoff. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. Sergei Rachmaninoff, piano; Leopold Stokowski, conductor. Philadelphia Orchestra. (1929)
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s piano performances of his own compositions are considered by many to be unparalleled. Rachmaninoff first recorded the complete 2nd piano concerto in 1929. Two of its three movements were released on acoustically recorded discs in 1924.
“The Suncook Town tragedy.” Mabel Wilson Tatro of Springfield, VT. (July 1930)
This ballad about a New Hampshire tragedy is one of the earliest recordings made by Helen Hartness Flanders. She recorded many similar vernacular story-songs in her extensive documentation of the vernacular music of Vermont. The recording is held by Middlebury College.
Rosina Cohen oral narrative from the Lorenzo D. Turner Collection. (1932)
African American linguist Lorenzo D. Turner recorded numerous Gullah dialect stories, songs, sermons, and accounts of slavery during the summers of 1932 and 1933. In this oral narrative, Rosina Cohen recounts her memories of slaves being freed by Yankees on Edisto Island. The recording is significant as a permanent record of a vanishing American regional dialect and as a document of African American cultural history.
“Stormy Weather.” Ethel Waters. (1933)
Composer and lyricist Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler intended their 1933 song, “Stormy Weather” to be sung by Cab Calloway in a revue at Harlem’s Cotton Club. Instead, Ethel Waters performed the song. The singer began her career as a blues singer but became a pioneer jazz singer, adapting her voice to a conversational style in which the meaning of the song lyrics are conveyed with subtle theatricality. Waters’s “Stormy Weather” became a best seller, bringing her tremendous exposure as a jazz singer and incomparable interpreter of the American Songbook.
“Body and Soul.” Coleman Hawkins. (1939)
Hawkins’ “Body and Soul” is an icon: the measure of any tenor player to this day is his handling of the tune against the first master of the instrument. A 3-minute, lightly-swinging ballad recorded as an afterthought at the end of his first U.S. sessions after a five-year stay in Europe, “Body” boasts Hawkins’ rippling harmonic excursions, rhythmic perfection, and the drama of his unfolding auto-one-upmanship have placed it at the center of jazz history.
- Sergey Prokofiev. Peter and the Wolf. Serge Koussevitzky, conductor; Richard Hale, narrator. Boston Symphony Orchestra. (1939)
Sergey Prokofiev brought his “orchestral fairy tale,” Peter and the Wolf, to Moscow audiences in 1936, having composed the music and written the narration as a children’s introduction to orchestral music. Prokoviev conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall at the American premiere in1938. This premiere recording of the work was performed by the Boston Symphony, under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky, with narration by Richard Hale.
“In the Mood.” Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. (1939)
Miller’s “In the Mood,” composed by Joe Garland and Andy Razaf, was No. 1 for 12 weeks and exemplifies “Big Band” for many people. Solos by tenor saxmen Tex Beneke, Al Klink, and Clyde Hurley have echoed cheerfully through dance halls for 60 years, accumulating iconic weight along the way.
- Edward R. Murrow broadcast from London. (1940)
Edward R. Murrow’s eyewitness news broadcasts of the Battle of Britain conveyed the emotions and sounds of a city under siege to audiences throughout the United States. One of the best-remembered of that series of 1940 broadcasts was on of September 21 when Murrow dispassionately described the bombing of London from a rooftop during the blitzkrieg.
We Hold These Truths. Radio broadcast. (1941)
Commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, radio prducer and writer Norman Corwin created We Hold These Truths. The one-hour drama exploring American values aired one week after the invasion of Pearl Harbor. The broadcast was carried on all four radio networks simultaneously to an audience of more than 60 million listeners, roughly half of the U.S. population at the time, and was the largest audience in history to listen to a dramatic presentation.
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. Piano Concerto No. 1, op. 23, Bb minor. Vladimir Horowitz, piano; Arturo Toscanini; conductor; NBC Symphony Orchestra. (1943)
To promote the purchase of bonds during World War II, Arturo Toscanini and Vladimir Horowitz donated their services for an Easter Sunday afternoon concert, held at Carnegie Hall on April 25, 1943. The performance raised more than $10 million dollars. The second half of the concert was broadcast by NBC. It consisted of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto, the Nutcracker Suite, and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“Down by the Riverside.” Sister Rosetta Tharpe. (1944)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, considered to be one of the greatest gospel singers of her generation, merged blues and jazz into her performances and influenced many gospel, jazz and rock artists. She sang at John Hammond’s historic 1938 concert, “From Spirituals to Swing,” in Carnegie Hall, and was a frequent performer in night clubs as well as before religious groups. “Down by the Riverside” captures her spirited guitar playing and unique vocal style, demonstrating clearly her influence on early rhythm-and-blues performers.
U. S. Highball (A Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip). Harry
Partch; Gate 5 Ensemble. (1946)
Harry Partch, American composer and instrument maker, said his music was “based on a monophonic system of acoustic intervals and an expandable source scale of more than 40 notes to the so-called scale.” He was known for his adaptation and invention of instruments, including the chromelodeon, the chordophone, the kitchara, the harmonic canon and the bloboys. U.S. Highball (A Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip) for chorus and instruments was first performed in Carnegie Hall in 1944. It is an account of a freight train ride from California to Chicago, part of a larger body of work that Partch composed after traveling the country. Partch recorded on his own label, Gate 5, with his group, Gate 5 Ensemble.
Four Saints in Three Acts. Virgil Thomson, composer, with members of original 1934 cast. (1947)
Virgil Thomson’s opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, is generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest American operas. Its libretto was written by Gertrude Stein. Selections from the opera were recorded in 1947 by RCA Victor with many of the original cast members and Thomson conducting the orchestra and choir.
“Manteca.” Dizzy Gillespie Big Band with Chano Pozo. (1947)
Latin jazz, sometimes called Afro–Cuban jazz, incorporates jazz improvisation with Cuban rhythms. The music strongly emphasizes percussion, using congas, timbales and bongos to supplement piano, guitar or vibes with horns and vocals. A pioneer of this pulsating, infectious sound was Dizzy Gillespie, who was greatly influenced by Chano Pozo, a Cuban singer and drummer. Performing with Gillespie for the first time in 1947, Pozo joined Gillespie’s bebop big band and composed “Manteca” with him, later recording it for RCA Victor. [more on Gillespie here]
Jack Benny radio program, show of March 28, 1948.
Jack Benny’s career started in vaudeville, but he soon mastered other show business formats, including radio, television and motion pictures. Benny is best remembered as the parsimonious straight man to his regular casts on radio and television. In a skit broadcast in 1948, Benny was held up by a thief. When asked by the robber, “Your money or your life,” Benny paused and eventually replied, “I’m thinking it over.”
“Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. (1949)
Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, made this influential recording for Mercury Records on December 11, 1949, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first of many instrumental hits featuring Scrugg’s three-finger banjo picking style, it has set benchmarks for generations of banjo players and bluegrass performers. The 1949 recording of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was famously featured as chase music in the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde.
“Lovesick Blues.” Hank Williams. (1949)
Hank Williams (1923-53) is the most important artist in country music history, but he couldn’t have done it without Fred Rose. Born in rural Alabama and raised by a strong mother in the Depression South when his father was committed to an institution, young Hank lived for music. It is reputed that Hank picked up rudiments of guitar and performing from blues singer Tee-Tot (Rufe Payne) as a child in Greenville. The family moved to Montgomery in ‘37, and Hank was already good enough to win a talent contest with an original song, “W.P.A. Blues,” that year. With a repertoire of Roy Acuff, Jimmie Rodgers and original tunes, Williams had his own radio show on WSFA by ‘41.
A back injury kept Williams out of the Army, so he worked in the shipyards of Mobile by day and played the honky tonks by night. He met another strong woman, Audrey Sheppard, who had enough confidence in Hank’s talent for the both of them, and they were married in ‘44.
Fred Rose (1897-1954) was a child prodigy on piano who played for tips in the saloons of St. Louis. He gravitated to Chicago by his teens, where he performed, recorded player piano rolls, and wrote scores of songs, including “’deed I Do“ and “Red Hot Mama” for Sophie Tucker. Rose played briefly with Paul Whiteman’s band, drifted to Nashville in ‘33 where he had his own radio show on WSM (Fred Rose’s Song Shop – “you suggest the title and Fred will compose the song live on the air!”), then to the songwriter’s mecca, New York’s Tin Pan Alley. Another songwriter introduced Rose to Gene Autry, whom he accompanied to Hollywood and with whom he co-wrote 16 film songs including “Tears On My Pillow,” and the Academy Award-nominated (‘41) “Be Honest With Me.”
Rose returned to Nashville in ‘42 and had his country music epiphany one evening listening to Roy Acuff sing “Don’t Make Me Go to Bed and I’ll Be Good” at the Opry. Rose began writing country songs in earnest and accepted when Acuff asked him to go into partnership on the first all-country music publishing company, Acuff-Rose. By ‘45, Rose had turned over the daily management of the company to his accountant son Wesley in order to concentrate on songwriting, talent hunting, and marketing (i.e. song plugging). Father and son Rose were engaged in their daily table tennis session when Hank and Audrey Williams walked unannounced into their office in September of ‘46.
Rose immediately saw Williams’ talent for what it was and signed him as a songwriter. The rest is legend on its way to myth: under Rose’s guidance as song publisher-polisher/producer/father figure, Williams became country’s biggest star and most accomplished songwriter, generating genre-transcending classics “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Move It On Over,” “You Win Again,” “Jambalaya,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You),” and arguably, greatest of all, “I’m So Lonesome I’m Could Cry,” before dying in the back seat of his limo after a yearlong bender at the age of 29.
“Lonesome” wasn’t even a hit single for Hank (it was released as the B side of “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It” in ‘49), but the song’s stature has risen ever since, its quiet desperation unsettling each generation anew. It is reputed that Rose had Williams change the last word in the song’s refrain and title from “die” to “cry,” tipping the scales back to despondency from despair, but he couldn’t disguise the true nature of that cry.
- Guys and Dolls. Original cast recording. (1950)
The Broadway musical fable Guys and Dolls is considered to be one of the greatest musical comedies every produced. It features a masterful score by Frank Loesser as well as an excellent book based on short stories of Damon Runyon. The recording by its original cast preserves aurally many definitive performances of the show’s musical treasures, most notably, those by Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye.
“Old Soldiers Never Die” (Farewell Address to Congress). General Douglas MacArthur. (1951)
After President Harry S. Truman relieved General Douglas A. MacArthur of duty for a series of public statements that urged the invasion of China and hinted that the President was practicing appeasement, MacArthur was invited to address a joint session of Congress. In spite of the controversy, surrounding MacArthur, his speech is noted for its eloquence and effectiveness.
Songs by Tom Lehrer. (1953)
This popular album of satiric songs started as a campus hit at Harvard University where Lehrer was a graduate student in mathematics and a regular performer. Lehrer has said that he recorded it for $15 for release to his Harvard audience, but despite this minuscule budget, it sold an estimated 370,000 copies. Among the prominent comedians to have claimed Lehrer as an influence are Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Weird Al Yankovich. [more on Lehrer here]
“I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man.” Muddy Waters. (1954)
Muddy’s first recordings were made for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress in the early-’40s on acoustic guitar while he still lived in Mississippi (represented on his own fine series collection by “Country Blues, Number One”). Waters first went to Chicago in the mid-’40s and he changed to electric guitar in ’44 – one of the most important instrument switches in popular music history. Waters began recording for the Chess label in the late-’40s and his music evolved into the rockin’ Chicago band sound with the addition of a second guitar, drums, bass, and the great Little Walter on harmonica. Through the ’50s Waters also developed a slashing, shivering electric slide guitar style and recorded the greatest body of electric blues, (“Rollin’ Stone,” “Mannish Boy,” “Got My Mojo Working”) making Chicago his own in the process.
- “Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine).” The Penguins. (1954)
Released as a “B-side,” this doo wop ballad quickly garnered enormous popularity and became one of the first recordings to cross over. It climbed to the number 3 position on the rhythm-and-blues charts and reached number 8 on the pop charts. Billboard has termed the single of this song the “top R&B record of all time” measured by continuous popular appeal. The Penguins, a vocal group from Los Angeles that formed in 1954, featured high-school friends Cleveland Duncan (lead), Dexter Tisby (tenor), Bruce Tate (baritone), and Curtis Williams (bass). The recording was released on the DooTone label which was a black -owned and black-operated label.
Tuskegee Institute Choir Sings Spirituals. Directed by William L. Dawson. (1955)
This recording is significant not only for its powerful performances, but because it presents William L. Dawson’s arrangements of spirituals, which are still widely used by choirs today. Booker T. Washington founded The Tuskegee Institute Choir in 1887. Through tours, recordings and broadcasting, it reached international fame under the direction of Dawson, who led the choir from 1931 to 1955.
Messiah. Eugene Ormandy, conductor; Richard Condie, choir director. Mormon Tabernacle Choir; Philadelphia Orchestra. (1958)
The association between the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one of the best known choral organizations in the United States, and the Philadelphia Orchestra dates to 1936. This best-selling recording of Handel’s oratorio was made during a 1958 choir concert tour. It features Eileen Farrell, Martha Lipton, William Warfield and Cunningham Davis.
Giant Steps. John Coltrane. (1959)
John Coltrane’s lightning-fast runs on this debut recording for Atlantic Records have been described by writer Ira Gitler as “sheets of sound.” In characteristic fashion, Coltrane plays phrases forward, backwards and upside down, exhausting the possible permutations of a motive before proceeding. These fast runs signal Coltrane’s movement away from a chordal approach to jazz in favor of a more scalar approach. Giant Steps contains seven original compositions by Coltrane, many of which have become jazz standards. [more on Coltrane here, here, here, here, here, here]
Drums of Passion. Michael Babatunde Olatunji. (1960)
Nigerian drummer Michael Babatunde Olatunji came to the United States in the early 1960’s and released popular and influential drumming albums. Musicians as varied as Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, and Carlos Santana have all noted Olatunji’s virtuosity or counted him as an influence. Drums of Passion features traditional Nigerian drumming with Western choral arrangements in songs written by Olatunji. It was many Americans’ first exposure to Nigerian drumming. [more here]
Peace Be Still. James Cleveland. (1962)
This enormously successful gospel recording influenced many later groups and remains an excellent example of gospel performance. Rev. Cleveland, a protege of Thomas A. Dorsey and Roberta Martin, was himself a pioneer gospel recording artist, the first to make a ‘live’ gospel album and one of the developers of modern gospel. Peace Be Still features keyboardist Billy Preston and the Angelic Choir of Nutley, New Jersey.
“The Girl from Ipanema.” Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto. (1963)
Nothing speaks of the luxurious indolence of summer better than the gently swaying, tropical magic of Brazil’s bossa nova. Created in the early-’60s by the brilliant composer Antonio Carlos Jobim — the “George Gershwin of Brazil” — and singer-guitarist Joao Gilberto, who blended Brazilian samba and American cool jazz.
The movement was introduced to America and popularized throughout the world by American sax great Stan Getz, who had a huge hit with Jobim’s “Desafinado” in ’62. Recording a follow up in NYC in ’63 with Gilberto and Jobim, Getz and producer Creed Taylor figured a little English on the album couldn’t hurt and Gilberto sang none. Gilberto’s wife, Astrud, spoke and sang a little English and was literally just hanging around the studio, so she was planted in front of a microphone and the rest is history.
Astrud’s insinuating, accented, girlish vocal helped make “Girl From Ipanema” a monster hit, and her an international star. Has anyone ever said “aahh” more seductively?
- Live at the Apollo. James Brown. (1965)
James Brown’s best-selling Live at the Apollo remains significant for presenting his incandescent performances of “I’ll Go Crazy,” “Think” and “Night Train” with an airtight backup band. At the time of its release, none of Brown’s studio albums had done justice to his dynamic performance style. With this album a wider audience became familiar with his unique style. [more here]
Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys. (1966)
Departing from the Beach Boys surf-music roots, Pet Sounds was an emotive and carefully planned recording that attempted to present an album as a unified work and not merely a collection of singles. The album is notable for Brian Wilson’s high lead vocals and the harmonizing support from the other band members. Equally compelling are the melodies and the arrangements, the latter featuring, among other instruments, horns, strings, theremin, accordion and a glockenspiel. It has proven the most complete statement of Wilson’s musical and lyrical aesthetic. Paul McCartney has remarked on several occasions that it is his favorite album. [more here]
King James version of the Bible. Alexander Scourby. (1966)
An actor known for his rich bass voice, Alexander Scourby began his career in New York as a Shakespearean stage actor, but was soon narrating television documentaries, hosting opera broadcasts, and providing voice-overs for commercials. Recording for the blind for over 40 years, his was the voice of great literature. He recorded the King James version of the Bible for the American Foundation for the Blind, taking four years to record all 66 books. It became a best seller when it was commercially released in 1966.
Remarks by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong broadcast from the moon. (1969)
The landing of Apollo 11 on the moon had the world glued to its television set, yet the most enduring memories of the achievement are aural: “Houston. Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed…. I’m going to step off the LEM now. That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” These words, first broadcast from the moon, have become some of the most recognizable and memorable sentences spoken in United States history.
The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East. (1971)
This classic ‘live’ performance of southern blues rock contains a powerfully emotional rendition of “Tied to the Whipping Post” sung by Gregg Allman. That song became a touring standard for the band while the album received wide acclaim for its lengthy improvisational jams featuring the distinctive dual lead guitars of Duane Allman and Dickie Betts. [more here]
Star Wars (Soundtrack). John Williams. (1977)
This soundtrack score has been credited with reviving symphonic film scores in Hollywood motion pictures. The recording was a best-seller, its themes well remembered and often quoted. When the blockbuster motion picture was released in 1977, home video did not exist. It was the soundtrack recording which enabled audiences to evoke images from the film in their living rooms.
Recordings of Asian elephants by Katharine Payne. (1984)
Katharine Payne’s recordings of Asian elephants revealed that the animals use infrasonic sounds to communicate with one another. Such acoustic monitoring of the mammals has provided important insights into the mechanisms by which matrilineal groups of elephants maintain distance among one another over time and how males locate receptive females. In addition, the use of recordings has proven a very effective method for surveying populations of elephants. It has opened new windows into the complex lives of elephants and provided a tool for conservation. The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University holds this important collection of recordings.
Fear of a Black Planet. Public Enemy. (1989)
Fear of a Black Planet brought hip-hop respect from critics, millions of new fans, and passionate debate over its political content.The album signaled the coupling of a strongly political message with hip hop music. Its hit single, “Fight the Power,” was the theme for Spike Lee’s powerful film, Do the Right Thing. Public Enemy forged a new sound for hip hop that included funk rhythms, samples from James Brown and Eric Clapton, and found sounds. [more here]
Nevermind. Nirvana. (1991)
This surprising chartbuster from a grunge band from Aberdeen, Washington brought to the public’s attention a new, heavily distorted sound that would catch on and prove an enduring influence in rock. Characterized by raw vocals, driving rhythms and surprising shifts in dynamics, the record resonated with America’s youth and climbed to number one on the Billboard charts, selling over 10 million copies. [more here, here]