National Recording Registry

What does Kermit the Frog, President Roosevelt, and Janet Jackson have in common? Their voices will be preserved forever.

I told you about the National Film Registry NFR (on Oct. 8, 2021) that preserves important films and movies for all time but this time we will talk about its’ twin, the National Recording Registry NRR. The idea is the same as the film one: permanently preserve sound recordings that are deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. The recordings do not have to be the best recordings or professionally produced. As long as they are important to American culture, they will be considered for preservation. Just like the NFR, there is some criteria to be met before being inducted to the NRR. These are: the recording has to be at least 10 years old, have a copy exist (they prefer the original but if that does not exist, a copy will be preserved), and may contain music (can be a single song or a whole album), non-music, spoken word, or broadcast sound.

You can nominate up to 50 recordings per year and 25 recordings are inducted into the Registry each year with the date of that release of information varying every year.

In my spare time, I have been compiling every recording that is available on YouTube in a YouTube playlist. It is far from complete but I am always adding video to it. Find it here.

You can find the complete list here.

Here is just some of my top picks in no particular order from the list with some you might not expect to be in the NRR:

(Please note that I am writing the names and titles of recording as cataloged in the Library of Congress so if the grammar seems wrong, blame the LOC.)

St. Louis tinfoil recording

Mister Rogers Sings: 21 Favorite Songs from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood by Mister Rogers

WGBH Broadcast of the Boston Symphony on the day of the Kennedy Assassination (November 22, 1963)

“Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People

“Celebration” by Kool and the Gang

“Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang

“Strange Fruit” by Bessie Coleman

“Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” by Max Matthews (the first song sung using computer speech synthesis in 1962 and was featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey)

“White Christmas” (One of the most successful Christmas songs was written and performed by a Jewish immigrant) by Bing Crosby

The Okeh Laughing Record

Purple Rain by Prince

D-Day Radio Broadcast

President’s Message Relayed from Atlas Satellite (The first human voice to be broadcast from outer space to Earth)

The Best of Schoolhouse Rock

Standing Rock Preservation Recordings

Rumors by Fleetwood Mac

Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys

King James Version of the Bible read by Alexander Scourby

“Rhythm is Gonna Get You” (single) by Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine

The 1888 London cylinder recordings of Colonel George Gourad

“Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton (which was later covered by Elvis, giving him his big break)

Remarks broadcast from the moon by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong

Star Wars (Soundtrack) by John Williams

Address to Congress (“Day of Infamy” speech) (December 8, 1941) by Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog

Benjamin Ives Gilman 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition collection

Sesame Street: All-Time Platinum Favorites (album) by Sesame Street

‘Sorry, Wrong Number’ (‘Suspense’) (May 25, 1943) by Agnes Moorehead, et al.

Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings at UC Santa Barbara Library circa 1890-1920 (Home recordings. First time real animal sounds were recorded and the earliest born American woman known to exist on a record.)

“Cathy’s Clown” (single) by The Everly Brothers

First Family (album) by Vaughn Meader, et al. (A comedy album that imitates John F. Kennedy and his family. It was unknowingly recorded the same night and the president gave the Cuban Missile Crisis Speech. This album and its sequel were pulled from the shelves following the assassination of JFK and they did not come back to sale until 1999.)

“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

The Goldbergs (July 9, 1942) by Gertrude Berg, et al.

Ramones (album) by Ramones

A Charlie Brown Christmas (album) by The Vince Guaraldi Trio

Edison Talking Doll cylinders (November 1888)

Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MG’s

“Indians for Indians” (March 25, 1947) by Keshkekosh (a.k.a. Don Whistler)

Voices from the Days of Slavery by American Folklife Center

Aja by Steely Dan (One of my favorite albums of all time)

Ishi, cylinder recordings of by Ishi (The last surviving member of the Yahi people northern California, recorded 1911 to 1914)

“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green

Phonautograms by Edouard-Leon Stott de Martinville (the earliest known sound recording device)

Library of Congress Marine Corps Combat Field Recording Collection, Second Battles of Guam (July 20-August 11, 1944) by Alvin Josephy

First Transatlantic Radio Broadcast (March 14, 1925) by WJZ New York, WRC Washington, D.C.

First official transatlantic telephone conversation (January 7, 1927) by W.S. Gifford, Sir Evelyn P. Murray

“A Change is Gonna Come” (single) by Sam Cooke (A song about civil rights and was released posthumously after he was shot by a black woman.)

National Defense Test (September 12, 1924) by John J. Pershing

Songs in the Key of Life (album) by Stevie Wonder

Armistice Day broadcast (November 11, 1923) by Woodrow Wilson

At Folsom Prison (Album) by Johnny Cash

Bubble Book (the first Bubble Book) by Ralph Mayhew, Burges Johnson (Released in 1917, it could very well be the world’s first audio book)

Coolidge Inauguration Day Ceremony (March 4, 1925) by Calvin Coolidge, et al.

What surprised you? What will you nominate?



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