Alicia Keys’ debut album “Songs in A Minor,” Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” are some of the unforgettable sounds of the nation’s history and culture joining the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. The 2022 class includes important inductions of hip-hop, including recordings by A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang Clan.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today named 25 recordings as audio treasures worthy of preservation for all time based on their cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation’s recorded sound heritage.
“The National Recording Registry reflects the diverse music and voices that have shaped our nation’s history and culture through recorded sound,” Hayden said. “The national library is proud to help preserve these recordings, and we welcome the public’s input. We received about 1,000 public nominations this year for recordings to add to the registry.”
The recordings selected for the National Recording Registry bring the number of titles on the registry to 600, representing a small portion of the national library’s vast recorded sound collection of nearly 4 million items.
The latest selections named to the registry span from 1921 to 2010. They range from rock, pop, R&B, hip-hop and country to Latin, Motown, jazz, and recordings of history as it happened.
Keys described her album, “Songs in A Minor,” as a story and one of her favorite albums as she recalled writing songs like “Troubles,” “Rock wit U,” “A Woman’s Worth” and “Fallin’” in her teens and recording them in her one-bedroom Harlem apartment.
“I’m so honored and grateful that ‘Songs in A Minor,’ the entire album, gets to be recognized as such a powerful body of work that is just going to be timeless,” Keys said of her album’s induction into the registry.
Steve Perry, the lead singer of Journey, grew up in a small California farming town, the son of Portuguese immigrants. He said he was stunned for his parents and grandparents to have “Don’t Stop Believin’” enshrined as one of the nation’s signature recordings and that it’s “one of those ‘only in America’ kind of things.”
“That song, over the years, has become something that has a life of its own,” Perry said. “It’s about the people who’ve embraced it and found the lyrics to be something they can relate to and hold onto and sing.”
Defining Sounds of Hip-Hop
Several recordings joining the registry were influential in helping to deepen and grow the genres of rap, hip-hop and R&B in American culture.
A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 album, “The Low End Theory” was the group’s second studio release and came to be seen as a definitive fusion of jazz and rap with its distinctive sound. “We are honored to have our work added to the prestigious National Recording Registry amongst so many other astounding works,” said rapper Q-Tip. “We are humbled and grateful for this acknowledgement. Thank you so, so much.”
Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” would shape the sound of hardcore rap and reasserted the creative capacity of the East Coast rap scene. The group’s individual artists would go on to produce affiliated projects that deepened the group’s influence for decades in hip-hop.
By 2001, the young singer-songwriter Alicia Keys released her debut album, “Songs in A Minor” and achieved new independence with record producer Clive Davis in the process. Keys had written and recorded much of the album under a previous record deal, but the label rejected it. Keys described her influences on the album as a “fusion of my classical training, meshed with what I grew up listening to,” which included the jazz from her mother’s record collection, along with the classic R&B and hip-hop that was prevalent in her New York City neighborhood. Keys’ fusion of influences would produce a sound all her own.
“But what is it about (the album) that I think resonates with everybody for so long?” Keys said. “I just think it was so pure. … People hadn’t quite seen a woman in Timberlands and cornrows and really straight 100% off of the streets of New York performing classical music and mixing it with soul music and R&B … And people could find themselves in it. And I love that.”
Latin Music Reaches New Audiences
The 2022 class also adds a number of defining Latin sounds to the nation’s audio history from legendary artists.
A young Puerto Rican named Ricky Martin would become the “original Latin Crossover King,” paving the way for the globalization of Latin pop with his first major U.S. release, “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” a worldwide smash hit in 1999. Written by Draco Rosa and Desmond Child, the song went No. 1 in 20 countries and was certified platinum in the U.S., the UK and Australia. It remained at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks and would help define Martin’s career. Later, it was named the ASCAP Song of the Year, the BMI Latin Awards Song of the Year and would win four Grammys.
“I believe that the energy of a movement is what dominates in that song about Latinos, the empowerment of Latinos,” Rosa, the song’s co-writer said in Spanish. “Life is full of great suffering, and ‘La Vida Loca’ is the total opposite. Let’s live it up, right?!”
About the National Recording Registry
Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian of Congress, with advice from the National Recording Preservation Board, selects 25 titles each year that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least 10 years old. More information on the National Recording Registry can be found at loc.gov/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/about-this-program/. The public may nominate recordings for the Registry here.
Some registry titles have already been preserved by the copyright holders, artists or other archives. In cases where a selected title has not already been preserved, the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center works to ensure that the recording will be preserved by some entity and available for future generations. This can be through the Library’s recorded-sound preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, studios and independent producers.
The national library maintains a state-of-the-art facility where it acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (loc.gov/avconservation/). It is home to more than 9 million collection items.The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.
National Recording Registry, 2022 Selections
- “Harlem Strut” — James P. Johnson (1921)
- Franklin D. Roosevelt: Complete Presidential Speeches (1933-1945)
- “Walking the Floor Over You” — Ernest Tubb (1941) (single)
- “On a Note of Triumph” (May 8, 1945)
- “Jesus Gave Me Water” — The Soul Stirrers (1950) (single)
- “Ellington at Newport” — Duke Ellington (1956) (album)
- “We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite” — Max Roach (1960) (album)
- “The Christmas Song” — Nat King Cole (1961) (single)
- “Tonight’s the Night” — The Shirelles (1961) (album)
- “Moon River” — Andy Williams (1962) (single)
- “In C” — Terry Riley (1968) (album)
- “It’s a Small World” — The Disneyland Boys Choir (1964) (single)
- “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” — The Four Tops (1966) (single)
- Hank Aaron’s 715th Career Home Run (April 8, 1974)
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” — Queen (1975) (single)
- “Don’t Stop Believin’” — Journey (1981) (single)
- “Canciones de Mi Padre” — Linda Ronstadt (1987) (album)
- “Nick of Time” — Bonnie Raitt (1989) (album)
- “The Low End Theory” — A Tribe Called Quest (1991) (album)
- “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” — Wu-Tang Clan (1993) (album)
- “Buena Vista Social Club” (1997) (album)
- “Livin’ La Vida Loca” — Ricky Martin (1999) (single)
- “Songs in A Minor” — Alicia Keys (2001) (album)
- WNYC broadcasts for the day of 9/11 (Sept. 11, 2001)
- “WTF with Marc Maron” (Guest: Robin Williams) (April 26, 2010)
National Recording Registry, 2022 Selections
(about each selection)
“Ellington at Newport” — Duke Ellington (1956) (album)
After enduring a decade of waning record sales, Duke Ellington reignited his career via one single solo recorded in 1956. After their short set at the Newport Jazz Festival, on July 7, 1956, Duke and his orchestra were recalled to the stage. One of the numbers they performed at that time was the 1930s composition “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.” For this piece, at first, just the rhythm section played, then they were joined by the full orchestra. Then, saxophonist Paul Gonsalves jumped in, and at the urging of the crowd and Ellington himself, wailed through 27 choruses. The performance was historic. “Time” magazine would later call it a turning point in Ellington’s career and the Duke himself later said, “I was born in 1956 at the Newport Festival.” For decades, this performance was only available to record buyers in a version sourced from a tape where Gonsalves was off-mic and could only be heard beneath the band and audience. But, years later, a location tape recorded for overseas broadcast by Voice of America was discovered, and a restored version was finally released as part of a 1999 CD set.
“Moon River” — Andy Williams (1962) (single)
Though first introduced to audiences in the 1961 Audrey Hepburn film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (in which Hepburn herself sang it), “Moon River” is forever associated with smooth pop singer Andy Williams. It became his signature hit, and he sang the first eight bars of the song at the beginning of each and every episode of his long-running television variety show. Simple yet endearing, the song’s evocative lyrics, as the “Financial Times” once noted, “are a metaphor of yearning for the unpredictable eddies of an adventurous life, to be swept along by the currents of somewhere new.” The success of the song made it a modern standard and relaunched the career of its lyricist Johnny Mercer. Though “Moon River” has gone on to be recorded more than 500 times by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Louis Armstrong to Judy Garland (and there’s even a Joan Rivers funny version and Hepburn’s version certainly has its charms), it is Williams’ flawless rendition that endures.
“In C” — Terry Riley (1968) (album)
Terry Riley’s composition, “In C,” forgoes a traditional score and, instead, is comprised of 53 melodic phrases that may be played and repeated at the discretion of each musician and accommodates any number of instruments. It was first performed in 1964 at San Francisco’s Tape Music Center, where Riley worked with other groundbreaking experimental composers such as Steve Reich, Morton Subotnick and Pauline Oliveros. The composition filled both sides of the album, which Riley recorded for Columbia Record’s Music of Our Time series of albums in 1968, with Riley playing saxophone and leading a group of 10 musicians. This series aimed to introduce to the home listening public new and experimental music forms, and Riley’s work proved to be a popular and influential release across several genres, including classical rock and jazz. The album’s recording featured a group of performers for whom months of preparation lent confidence to the ever shifting improvisatory nature of the composition.
“Don’t Stop Believin’” — Journey (1981) (single)
Powered by lead singer Steve Perry’s soaring, crystalline lead vocal, “Don’t Stop Believin’” was the second single off the super group Journey’s 1981 album “Escape.” It went to No. 9 on the charts — selling over 7 million copies in the U.S. alone–and has since been described as a “perfect rock song.” While it has never left the airwaves — or Journey’s set list — the song has gained further cultural permanence via its frequent use at sporting games, in the Broadway rock musical “Rock of Ages” (where the song was the show’s big closer) and in film and television, most notably the cryptic final episode of “The Sopranos” and in the debut episode of “Glee.” Additionally, the song, written by Perry with bandmates Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, has now taken its place, not only as Journey’s greatest legacy, but also as the personal empowerment anthem of millions of people of various generations.
“The Low End Theory” — A Tribe Called Quest (1991) (album)
“The Low End Theory” was A Tribe Called Quest’s second studio release and is frequently seen as the definitive record of jazz and rap fusion. Featuring sparse, live-sounding beats and acoustic-feeling bass runs with melodic jazz samples, the production of Ali Shaheed Muhammad showcases the nimble flows of Phife Dawg and Q-Tip, as well as a guest spot from an up-and-coming Busta Rhymes. Lyrically, Tribe infuses the laid-back vibe with deft and infectious chemistry, touching on themes of social awareness and commentary, celebration of Blackness, self-deprecating humor and classic MC boasting as a counterpoint to the rising mainstream popularity of “gangsta rap” that was often seen as glorifying depictions of criminality and violence. The result was a distinctive sound that helped to expand and deepen the sonic palette of the growing rap and hip-hop genres.
“Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” — Wu-Tang Clan (1993) (album)
The Wu-Tang Clan released “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” in 1993, in the process shaping the sound of hardcore rap and reasserting the creative capacity of the East Coast rap scene, centered around New York City. The lo-fi sound of the mix, an artifact of the equipment band member RZA employed, communicated the rough-hewn nature of underground rap and the hard experiences that formed the intense, combative, paranoid energy of the group. Across the record, samples from dozens of pulp kung-fu movies lend imagery of a secret knowledge and a warrior’s honor — and blend with the wordplay of the Clan’s MC to develop an evocative mythology. While the Wu-Tang Clan collectively signed with Loud Records to release “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” their contract preserved each artist’s ability to sign with other labels of their choice for solo work. This flexibility enabled a constellation of Wu-Tang affiliated projects to flourish, which served to deepen the influence of the group throughout subsequent decades of hip-hop.
“Livin’ La Vida Loca” — Ricky Martin (1999) (single)
When ex-boy band member Ricky Martin (once part of Latin America’s perpetually young Menudo group) gave a legendary, star-making performance at the 1999 Grammy Awards (singing the World Cup anthem “Cup of Life”), audiences quickly realized that big things were going to be coming from this young singer. But few expected the massive overwhelming popularity of his first major U.S. release, “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Written by Draco Rosa and Desmond Child, and drenched in the swagger of Martin’s lead vocal, the song went No. 1 in 20 countries and was certified platinum in the U.S., the UK and Australia. Later, it was named the ASCAP Song of the Year, the BMI Latin Awards Song of the Year and would win four Grammys. Earwormy, fun and danceable, yet true to its Latin roots thanks to its horns and percussion, Martin was soon labeled by the press as the “original Latin Crossover King,” in the process paving the way for the globalization of Latin pop and the emergence of such other acts as Shakira, Paulina Rubio and others.
“Songs in A Minor” — Alicia Keys (2001) (album)
On this album, J Records label head, Clive Davis, afforded singer-songwriter Keys great independence in creating the album she wanted to release.Under a previous record deal, Keys had written and recorded much of the album, but the label rejected it. Dissatisfaction with the rejection and the label’s unwillingness to take her seriously led Keys to J Records where Davis’ instinct proved prescient. Keys has described her influences on the album as a “fusion of my classical training, meshed with what I grew up listening to,” which included the jazz from her mother’s record collection, along with the classic R&B and hip-hop that was prevalent in her New York City neighborhood. Reviewers were quick to point out the sophistication and assurance with which the young Keys realized the sound on this album. Her unaffected vocals were capable of expressing feelings from heartbreak to new love and from righteous women’s empowerment to elegant, stylish yearning.