So as of March 23rd, 2016, the official 2015 class of inductees has been named for the National Recording Registry.
Included we find The Supremes, John Coltrane's recording of "A Love Supreme" (long overdue for inclusion), Merle Haggard, Billy Joel, George Carlin, and Metallica. It's always kind of a grab bag, but I'm typically interested in what the most recently recorded items are that make the cut each year.
I first learned of the National Recording Registry, run by the Library of Congress, when I was working on my undergraduate thesis. It's hard when you are trying to give some sort of academic reasoning for an album or a musician being really important, but the NRR was there for me just when I needed it. I could tell my adviser 100 times that Sonic Youth was important, and that Daydream Nation is one of the most significant records in rock history, and he might believe me, but I needed some sort of official source to back me up.
It wouldn't be until graduate school that I would start to analyze musical devices (cross/polyrhythm, changing meter, Picardy thirds, etc.) that made popular music interesting, so I needed some backup from an academic source. Said adviser wasn't taking Pitchfork to be a very reputable source (nor should he, nor should anyone really), even if they claimed that Daydream Nation was the best and most important album of the 1980s. So after some searching, I stumbled upon the registry. Luckily for my work, Daydream Nation was added to the Registry in April of 2006 (on the 2005 list) and my adviser was happy to have that paragraph properly edited prior to the end of that particular semester. And I have been nerding out over the Registry for the last 10 years. (Eeek!)
So what exactly is the National Recording Registry, you might ask? I sort of see it as the nerd's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. While that organization is littered with politics and ridiculousness (ahem, Sonic Youth is not in there yet, and none of y'all would have heard of Kurt Cobain had it not been for Thurston Moore's urgings that he meet with Gary Gersh at Geffen Records), the National Recording Registry is the ultimate list of important recordings. If there were some sort of Twilight Zone-esque alien invasion, the United States government would give our visitors the recordings on this list to teach them who we are. That's at least the way I interpret it. As per the Registry itself, it states that recordings are added as such:
Each year, the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress chooses 25 recordings showcasing the range and diversity of American recorded sound heritage in order to increase preservation awareness. The diversity of nominations received highlights the richness of the nation's audio legacy and underscores the importance of assuring the long-term preservation of that legacy for future generations.
"Recorded sound heritage." That phrase is just so deliciously nerdy to me. As for items on the list that were recorded and released during my lifetime, it seems that the last three chronological entries on the Registry are Radiohead's OK Computer, Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and a live recording of Joan Tower's Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman, conducted by Queen Bee, Marin Alsop herself. Oddly enough, all three of these items were added on the 2014 Registry, or just last year.
If you start to think that at some point the LoC will run out of items of "recorded sound heritage" to add, consider how long it took to get "A Love Supreme", the single "Where Did Our Love Go?", or even "Piano Man" on the list, for crying out loud. Billy Joel is already in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters' Hall of Fame, has been bestowed with a Kennedy Center Honors, and as of 2014 was only the sixth recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. (The five honored before him already have entries in the registry.)
But I don't get nerdy about the NRR or anything.
This is the full list of 2015 inductees, as per the Library of Congress website (linked above & here):
2015 National Recording Registry (Listing in Chronological Order)
- "Let Me Call You Sweetheart"—Columbia Quartette (The Peerless Quartet) (1911)
- "Wild Cat Blues"—Clarence Williams' Blue Five (1923)
- "Statesboro Blues"—Blind Willie McTell (1928)
- "Bonaparte's Retreat"—W.H. Stepp (1937)
- Mahler Symphony No. 9—Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Bruno Walter, conductor. (1938)
- "Carousel of American Music"—George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Arthur Freed, Shelton Brooks, Hoagy Carmichael, others (September 24, 1940)
- "Vic and Sade"—Episode: "Decoration Day." (June 4, 1937) Radio
- The "Marshall Plan" Speech—George C. Marshall (June 5, 1947)
- "Destination Freedom"—Episodes: "A Garage in Gainesville" and "Execution Awaited" (September 25, October 2, 1949)
- Original soundtrack from "A Streetcar Named Desire"—Alex North, composer. (1951)
- "Cry Me a River"—Julie London (1955)
- "Mack the Knife" (singles)—Louis Armstrong (1956); Bobby Darin (1959).
- Fourth-quarter radio coverage of Wilt Chamberlin's 100-point game (Philadelphia Warriors vs. New York Knicks)—Bill Campbell, announcer (March 2, 1962)
- "A Love Supreme"—John Coltrane (1964)
- "It's My Way"—Buffy Sainte-Marie (1964) (album)
- "Where Did Our Love Go" (single)—The Supremes (1964)
- "People Get Ready" (single)—The Impressions (1965)
- "Mama Tried" (single)—Merle Haggard (1968)
- "Abraxas"—Santana (1970)
- "Class Clown"—George Carlin (1972)
- "Robert and Clara Schumann Complete Piano Trios"—The Beaux Arts Trio (1972)
- "Piano Man" (single)—Billy Joel (1973)
- "Bogalusa Boogie"—Clifton Chenier (1976)
- "I Will Survive"—Gloria Gaynor (1978)
- "Master of Puppets"—Metallica (1986)
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Also found here is a really neat tool that allows you to organize the full Registry by year of induction, year of release, genre, as well as alphabetically by composer/recorder and item title. Enjoy!