We live in a time when history is mostly forgotten. For whatever reason—lack of education or blatant commercialism—great achievement and works of art can easily be lost.
That’s why the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress is such a great idea. Each year, 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” entries are added to the list of recordings that are restored and preserved for the future.
This doesn’t mean these recordings will be remembered by the masses, but for the ones who care they can easily be found. That’s a small miracle in itself.
This year I’m particularly pleased that “Tipitina” by Professor Longhair and “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” by Blind Willie Johnson will be preserved. The music of Professor Longhair lives on at the P&G Bar in New York City. The great New Orleans pianist Henry Butler, one of the few people taught directly by the good professor, carries on the tradition. It cannot be lost.
Also on the list this year are albums by Steely Dan (“Aja”), Al Green (“Let’s Stay Together”), Tammy Wynette (“Stand by Your Man”), Captain Beefheart (“Trout Mask Replica”) and Henry Mancini’s theme music to the television series “Peter Gunn.”
Mort Sahl may not have wanted his 1955 comedy album “At Sunset” to be recorded, but it was at the Sunset Auditorium in Carmel, Calif., and later withdrawn because it was not authorized. Yet, history has now been made.
Also chosen was De La Soul (“3 Feet High and Rising”) and one of the earliest known recordings of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” It was Edward Meeker’s 1908 recording performed with the Edison Orchestra and includes the baseball anthem’s rarely heard second verse, which, said the library, reminds us “that the song is about a baseball-loving woman.”
The entries were chosen by the librarian of Congress James H. Billington and the library’s National Recording Preservation Board.