Rich Tapestry of America Added to National Recording Registry

“This is a difficult day, and a difficult time for the United States. It might be a good idea to ask what kind of a nation we are. We should ask what direction we want to move in. … You could be filled with hate; you could be bitter; and you could want revenge. We can move in that direction as a country. We can move toward the country being more divided. We could move toward black people staying amongst blacks, and white people staying amongst whites. The two groups could be filled with hate toward one another. Or we can try, as Martin Luther King did, to understand. We can replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand. We could have kindness and love instead.”

Those words were spoken extemporaneously from the back of a pickup truck in Indianapolis the night of April 4, 1968, by then-Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy upon learning of the assassination of Dr. King. Just two months later, Kennedy was also assassinated.

But his speech that night lives on in the National Recording Registry, a program of the Library of Congress, which has just announced the chosen entries from nominations received in 2018. Since 2002, the National Recording Preservation Board has accepted nominations from the public for 25 recordings to be included in the registry each year. To date, the registry includes 525 titles.

The 2018 list is a rich tapestry of American culture, music, spoken word, comedy and drama.

“The National Recording Registry honors the music that enriches our souls, the voices that tell our stories and the sounds that mirror our lives,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in a March 20 press release announcing the 2018 lineup. “The influence of recorded sound over its nearly 160-year history has been profound, and technology has increased its reach and significance exponentially. The Library of Congress and its many collaborators are working to preserve these sounds and moments in time, which reflect our past, present and future.”

Many great recordings are included in the 2018 lineup, but I was especially happy to see the great Curtis Mayfield on the list with his 1972 soundtrack album Superfly. In the aforementioned press release, musician and record producer Don Was commented on its inclusion: “I would compare Curtis Mayfield’s work on Superfly to the work of the great post-Impressionist painters. Mayfield took textures that were then popular in rhythm and blues – like wah-wah guitars, congas, flutes, orchestras – and blended them into something altogether new. … I think it’s wonderful that 50 years after its inception, the music of Superfly still resonates with listeners and is being honored by the National Recording Registry.”

There are other personal favorites included as well: Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher,” Pablo Casals’ J.S. Bach: The Six Cello Suites, Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba,” Dexter Gordon’s GO, Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” (perhaps the first time those two words were put together), and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

Can’t wait to see the 2019 lineup next year at this time.

Anyone can submit nominations. To read about the criteria and where to send your nominations, visit

2018 National Recording Registry

• Yiddish cylinders from the Standard Phonograph Company of New York and the Thomas Lambert Company, c. 1901-05
• “Memphis Blues” (single), Victor Military Band, 1914
• Melville Jacobs Collection of Native Americans of the American Northwest, 1929-39
• “Minnie the Moocher” (single), Cab Calloway, 1931
J.S. Bach: The Six Cello Suites (album), Pablo Casals, c. 1939
• “They Look Like Men of War” (single), Deep River Boys, 1941
Gunsmoke episode: “The Cabin,” Dec. 27, 1952
• Complete Recorded Monologues: Ruth Draper, Ruth Draper, 1954-56
• “La Bamba” (single), Ritchie Valens, 1958
• “Long Black Veil” (single), Lefty Frizzell, 1959
Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Vol. 1: The Early Years (album), Stan Freberg, 1961
GO (album), Dexter Gordon, 1962
War Requiem (album), Benjamin Britten, 1963
• “Mississippi Goddam” (single), Nina Simone, 1964
• “Soul Man” (single), Sam & Dave, 1967
Hair (original Broadway cast recording), 1968
• Speech on the Death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968
• “Sweet Caroline” (single), Neil Diamond, 1969
Superfly (album), Curtis Mayfield, 1972
Ola Belle Reed (album), Ola Belle Reed, 1973
• “September” (single), Earth, Wind & Fire, 1978
• “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” (single), Sylvester, 1978
She’s So Unusual (album), Cyndi Lauper, 1983
Schoolhouse Rock! The Box Set, 1996
The Blueprint (album), Jay-Z, 2001