Mariah Carey, John Denver, Eurythmics Inducted Into Library of Congress National Recording Registry
Madonna’s cultural ascent with “Like a Virgin,” Mariah Carey’s perennial No. 1 Christmas hit, Queen Latifah’s groundbreaking “All Hail the Queen” and Daddy Yankee’s reggaeton explosion with “Gasolina” are some of the defining sounds of the nation’s history and culture that will now join the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. The 2023 class also includes the first sounds of a video game to join the registry with the Super Mario Bros. theme, powerful voices of women, important inductions of Latin music, and classic sounds of rock and pop from the 1960s to the ‘80s.
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 preserves our history through recorded sound and reflects our nation’s diverse culture,” Hayden said. “The national library is proud to help ensure these recordings are preserved for generations to come, and we welcome the public’s input on what songs, speeches, podcasts or recorded sounds we should preserve next. We received more than 1,100 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 625, 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 1908 to 2012. They range from the first recordings of Mariachi music and early sounds of the Blues to radio journalism leading up to World War II, and iconic sounds from pop, country, rock, R&B, jazz, rap, and classical music.
NPR’s “1A” will host several features in the series, “The Sounds of America,” on this year’s selections for the National Recording Registry, including interviews with Hayden and several featured artists in the weeks ahead. Follow the conversation about the registry on Twitter and Instagram @librarycongress and #NatRecRegistry.
Listen to many of the recordings on your favorite streaming service.The Digital Media Association, a member of the National Recording Preservation Board, has compiled a list of some streaming services with National Recording Registry playlists, available here: dima.org/national-recording-registry-class-of-2023/
“All I Want for Christmas Is You,” the seasonal juggernaut that now sells more records than its 1994 release, is Mariah Carey’s first song to make the National Recording Registry. The delighted pop star told the Library it’s a perfect fit for a little girl from Long Island who grew up wanting a perfect Christmas. But Carey’s childhood was turbulent, beset by her parents’ divorce and difficult family relations. So, when she was a 22-year-old sensation in the music business, the first Christmas song she wrote was about her own wish for the holiday.
“I tried to tap into my childhood self, my little girl self, and say, ‘What are all the things I wanted when I was a kid?’” she said. “I wanted it to be a love song because that’s kind of what people relate to, but also a Christmas song that made you feel happy.”
She brought the melody and lyrics to her then-songwriting partner and producer Walter Afanasieff, and the pair worked together to create its retro “wall of sound” production, as if it might have been a recorded in the 1960s. A modest hit upon release, it’s grown over time to hit No. 1 on pop charts the last four years, setting Carey’s pop-culture image as the Queen of Christmas.
“I’m most proud of the arrangements, the background vocal arrangements,” she said. “‘All I Want for Christmas’ is sort of in its own little category, and I’m very thankful for it.”
“Take Me Home, Country Roads,” recorded by John Denver in 1971, might be one of the nation’s favorite singalongs year after year. Denver’s family said they were honored the song by Denver, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert was chosen for preservation by the Library.
“Dad has been gone 25 years, and this song continues to be sung at concerts and events around the world, which we’re sure Dad, Bill, and Taffy never imaginedwhen they wrote it so many years ago. Thanks to the Library of Congress for this recognition,” Denver’s family said in a joint statement.
By the 1980s, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart had been in and out of British-based music groups for some time without much success. Flat broke in 1982, Stewart managed to borrow enough money to buy a couple of synthesizers and a prototype of a drum machine so basic that it was housed in a wooden case.
One night in their studio — the loft of a picture-framing factory in central London — he got the drum kit going and hit a couple of chords on the synthesizer. Lennox sat up bolt upright, as if she’d touched an electric wire. She went to her own synthesizer, played a riff against his beat and soon ad-libbed a lyric, a wry comment on their impoverished status: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” The Eurythmics’ influential, synthesizer-heavy song was born, and soon the duo would have a massive international dance hit and would be a sensation in the new medium of music videos.
“It’s a mantra, almost like a Haiku poem, a coded message, a commentary about the human condition,” Lennox said of the song. “You can use it as a happy birthday song or a celebratory song…it could be anything. Looking back, I love the way people have identified with it.”
Stewart, who now works primarily as a producer, took a break from working on a musical with Ringo Starr to talk about the song that made the rest of his life possible.
“It’s like alchemy, you get two people like Annie and myself” with different skill sets but a united passion for a single sound, he said. “It’s like one plus one equals three.”
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, 2023 Selections
- “The Very First Mariachi Recordings” — Cuarteto Coculense (1908-1909)
- “St. Louis Blues” — Handy’s Memphis Blues Band (1922)
- “Sugar Foot Stomp” — Fletcher Henderson (1926)
- Dorothy Thompson: Commentary and Analysis of the European Situation for NBC Radio (Aug. 23-Sept. 6, 1939)
- “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around” — The Fairfield Four (1947)
- “Sherry” — The Four Seasons (1962)
- “What the World Needs Now is Love” — Jackie DeShannon (1965)
- “Wang Dang Doodle” — Koko Taylor (1966)
- “Ode to Billie Joe” — Bobbie Gentry (1967)
- “Déjà Vu” — Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (1970)
- “Imagine” — John Lennon (1971)
- “Stairway to Heaven” — Led Zeppelin (1971)
- “Take Me Home, Country Roads” — John Denver (1971)
- “Margaritaville” — Jimmy Buffett (1977)
- “Flashdance…What a Feeling” — Irene Cara (1983)
- “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — Eurythmics (1983)
- “Synchronicity” — The Police (1983)
- “Like a Virgin” — Madonna (1984)
- “Black Codes (From the Underground)” — Wynton Marsalis (1985)
- Super Mario Bros. theme — Koji Kondo, composer (1985)
- “All Hail the Queen” — Queen Latifah (1989)
- “All I Want for Christmas is You” — Mariah Carey (1994)
- “Pale Blue Dot” — Carl Sagan (1994)
- “Gasolina” — Daddy Yankee (2004)
- “Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra” — Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, composer (2012)
National Recording Registry, 2023 Selections
(about each selection)
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” — John Denver (1971) (single)
Though the song clearly celebrates West Virginia, its inspiration actually occurred on the winding highways of another East Coast state, rural Maryland, with a little nostalgic influence from the New England states. It was there, on one of those byways, that two of the song’s co-writers, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert (later to become two-thirds of the Starland Vocal Band), struck upon the feelings and imagery for the song that would become “Take Me Home….” Later, in December 1970, the duo met up with singer/songwriter John Denver at a New York City gig they were both playing. After they shared the song with him, Denver added the song’s bridge and later recorded it for his fourth album. It became that album’s first single and his breakout, career-making hit. “Take Me Home…” went on to define much of Denver’s career while also becoming a family and sing-along favorite, hitting a common ground simultaneously shared by the genres of country, folk and pop.
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — Eurythmics (1983) (single)
David Stewart and Annie Lennox, popularly known as Eurythmics, had enjoyed some chart success prior to the release of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” but this synth-pop song with its propulsive drum and synth line proved their breakthrough hit. Stewart remembers the track coming together very quickly using a prototype drum machine and two synthesizers. Lennox was depressed and laying on the floor when suddenly this pounding rhythm came out of the speakers. Lennox leapt to her feet, asking, “What’s that?” She quickly seized one synthesizer already preset to a string ensemble sound. That, along with Stewart’s addition of one more monophonic synth line, and the track was complete. Lennox then wrote the bulk of the lyrics on the spot and sang the lead vocal in one take. With the addition of one more section, they had created one of the most recognizable tracks in pop.
“Black Codes (From the Underground)” — Wynton Marsalis (1985) (album)
“Black Codes (From the Underground)” is regarded as one of Wynton Marsalis’ most beloved and artistically successful recordings. In contrast with the electronic and funk-infused jazz of the 1970s, these recordings hearken back to the acoustic jazz of the 1950s and ’60s, but with a distinctly 1980s flair and virtuosity. Retaining all but one member of his original quintet, the brilliant playing by everyone defined the era, and launched the group that came to be known as the “Young Lions.” Drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, bassist Charnett Moffett and pianist Kenny Kirkland play with muscular assurance, and a guest appearance by bassist Ron Carter, an alumnus of the second Miles Davis quintet, gives a seal of approval on this new take on 1960’s post-bop jazz. Recorded when he was only 23 years old, “Black Codes” won two Grammy awards that year, including Best Jazz Instrumental Performance-Group. Two years later, in 1987, Wynton Marsalis would help start the Classical Jazz summer concert series at Lincoln Center in New York City and the Jazz at Lincoln Center department, which continues today.
“All I Want for Christmas is You” — Mariah Carey (1994) (single)
For the past 40 years, the lower rungs of the pop chart have been littered with attempts to launch a new Christmas standard, a song for the season to modernize the feelings that Bing Crosby and Mel Torme had so resoundingly put onto disc decades before. None of them had ever endured, however, nor taken their place with those previous hits and all the classic Christmas hymns and carols. That was until 1994 when, for her fourth collection, Carey went into the studio to make the now almost obligatory holiday album. For it, she laid down 10 songs, most of them holiday favorites like “Silent Night” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” But, in the mix, she and collaborator/producer Walter Afanasieff (a.k.a. Baby Love) also contributed this original tune. The song was first released in October 1994, but, now, almost like Christmas itself, the song comes back again and again; it continues to chart every year. In fact, each year since 2000, the song has even charted higher than the year before! “All I Want…” has now gone 12 times platinum and is the best-selling holiday song ever recorded by a female artist.