An unauthorized recording of a Mort Sahl stand-up concert, Tammy Wynette’s polarizing 1968 hit “Stand by Your Man” and Henry Mancini’s theme for 1950s TV detective drama Peter Gunn are among the latest sound recordings to be selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.
On Wednesday, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington named 25 new additions to the ninth annual National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, ensuring that these cultural, artistic and historical recordings always will be available to the American public.
Also selected: Edward Meeker’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from 1908; Al Green’s soulful “Let’s Stay Together”; the Western classic “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” from the Sons of the Pioneers; Voice of America radio broadcasts by jazz producer Willis Conover; a sermon from Aretha Franklin’s father; and performances by Nat “King” Cole, Les Paul, Blind Willie Johnson, Steely Dan, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band and De La Soul.
Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board, is tasked each year with selecting 25 recordings that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and at least 10 years old.
Nominations were gathered from online submissions from the public and from the NRPB, which comprises leaders in the fields of music, recorded sound and preservation.
The newest selections span the years 1853-1994 — starting with what are believed to be the first recorded sounds — and bring the total number of preserved recordings to 325.
“Songs, words and the natural sounds of the world that we live in have been captured on one of the most perishable of all of our art media,” Billington said. “The salient question is not whether we should preserve these artifacts, but how best collectively to save this indispensable part of our history.”
As part of its congressional mandate, the Library is identifying and preserving the best existing versions of each recording on the registry. These will be housed in the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va. The Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division’s collections include nearly 3 million sound recordings.