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National Recording Registry Adds 25 Notable Audio Efforts

Friendly/Murrow collaboration, 'Rapper's Delight' are among those honored

Rapper’s Delight, Sugarhill Gang, 1979. Album cover courtesy of Sugarhill Records
The earliest known commercial sound recording in existence is among audio innovations and innovators being added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

Broadcast history, spoken-word artifacts and great musical recordings come together in the recordings named annually for preservation. The registry turns 10 this year and now includes 350 selections.

New to the list are radio greats Fred W. Friendly and Edward R. Murrow, voices of former slaves, the recording “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” iconic hip-hop tune “Rapper’s Delight” and the song “I Feel Love” by the late Donna Summer.

To hear a montage, press the play button on the audio icon.

The oldest known commercial sound recording is “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” sung by an unidentified Edison employee onto a 5/8-inch-wide tin cylinder created in 1888 by an Edison company that made talking dolls for children.

The library says this is the first children’s recording and possibly the first recording to be made by someone paid to perform for a sound recording. It could not be played in modern times until 2011 when its surface was scanned using digital mapping tools.

I Can Hear It Now: 1933-1945, Edward R. Murrow, 1948. Album cover courtesy Columbia Records
Also in the registry, Friendly and Murrow are consisting of speech excerpts and news reports. According to the library, Friendly “spent months locating and copying 100 hours of broadcast disc recordings, using newly introduced magnetic recording tape to create compelling montages … The ease of editing and recording on magnetic tape allowed the creation of portions of the album that are now controversial, such as the fabrication of a break-in announcement of the Pearl Harbor attack, and the re-recording of a newscast to replace a damaged original.”

The library tries to identify and preserve the best existing versions of each recording. The registry now contains 350 recordings dating to 1888. The full list appears below. Find detailed descriptions of each, and more audio clips, here.

2011 National Recording Registry (chronological order)
1. Edison Talking Doll cylinder (1888)

2. “Come Down Ma Evenin’ Star,” Lillian Russell (1912)

3. “Ten Cents a Dance,” Ruth Etting (1930)

4. “Voices from the Days of Slavery,” Various speakers (1932-1941 interviews; 2002 compilation)

5. “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” Patsy Montana (1935)

6. “Fascinating Rhythm,” Sol Hoopii and his Novelty Five (1938)

7. “Artistry in Rhythm,” Stan Kenton & and his Orchestra (1943)

8. Debut performance with the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (November 14, 1943)

9. International Sweethearts of Rhythm: Hottest Women’s Band of the 1940s (1944-1946)

10. “The Indians for Indians Hour” (March 25, 1947)

11. “Hula Medley,” Gabby Pahinui (1947)

12. “I Can Hear It Now,” Fred W. Friendly and Edward R. Murrow (1948)

13. “Let’s Go Out to the Programs,” The Dixie Hummingbirds (1953)

14. “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1954, 1958)

15. “Bo Diddley” and “I’m a Man,” Bo Diddley (1955)

16. “Green Onions,” Booker T. & the M.G.’s (1962)

17. “Forever Changes,” Love (1967)

18. “The Continental Harmony: Music of William Billings,” Gregg Smith Singers (1969)

19. “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Vince Guaraldi Trio (1970)

20. “Coat of Many Colors,” Dolly Parton (1971)

21. “Mothership Connection,” Parliament (1975)

22. Barton Hall concert by the Grateful Dead (May 8, 1977)

23. “I Feel Love,” Donna Summer (1977)

24. “Rapper’s Delight,” Sugarhill Gang (1979)

25. “Purple Rain,” Prince and the Revolution (1984)