WASHINGTON — Three Louisiana artists’ recordings are among 25 selected for preservation at the Library of Congress.
Opelousas-born zydeco performer Clifton Chenier recorded “Bogalusa Boogie” in 1976, while Plaquemine native Clarence Williams’ Blue Five’s 1923 recording of “Wild Cat Blues” is among the earliest jazz recordings to have widespread influence on musicians. And New Orleans great Louis Armstrong’s recording of “Mack the Knife” with his quintet in 1956 is one of two recordings of that song also making the list.
A Gloria Gaynor disco anthem, George Carlin’s ‘seven dirty words’ routine and coverage of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game are also among the recordings honored.
The recordings reaching back to 1911 were added to the library’s National Recording Registry last week. Each year the library chooses recordings that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and are at least 10 years old. This year’s picks include a wide range of music from blues, jazz and rock to country and classical, but there are also recordings of radio shows, sports and comedy.
“‘I Will Survive’ is my mantra, the core of my God-given purpose,” Gaynor said of her 1978 hit being chosen in a statement provided by the library. “It is my privilege and honor to use it to inspire people around the world of every nationality, race, creed, color and age group to join me as I sing and live the words: ‘I Will Survive.’”
The Library of Congress has been seeking to preserve important sound recordings under terms of a preservation act passed by Congress. This year’s selections bring the registry’s total to 450. Nominations come through online submissions from the public and from the registry’s board.
The list includes other musical favorites such as Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” the Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go,” Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” album, John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and the other “Mack the Knife,” by Bobby Darin in 1959.
The registry already includes recordings by Latino artists, but Santana’s “Abraxas” album, which blended Latino music with other styles, is probably the first on the registry that introduced the public on a mass scale to Latino artists and themed recordings, said Steve Leggett, program coordinator with the National Recording Preservation Board.
“It had a huge commercial and artistic impact,” he said.
Some of the earliest recordings include a 1911 recording of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” by the Columbia Quartette, also known as the Peerless Quartet.
But the registry includes more than just music. One of the recordings the public submissions brought to light is the long-running daytime serial radio program “Vic and Sade,” Leggett said. The registry includes the June 4, 1937, episode “Decoration Day.”
The list also includes two episodes of “Destination Freedom,” a radio program broadcast from 1948 to 1950 on Chicago’s WMAQ. The program presented accomplishments of African-Americans and the prejudices they faced and gave lead roles to African-American actors, which was unusual at the time.
“These highlight the importance of radio,” Leggett said. “It’s still a medium that people get their music and information from.”
The historic recordings include George C. Marshall’s June 1947 “Marshall Plan” speech outlining the plan to restore Europe after World War II. There’s also a recording of the coverage of the fourth quarter of the March 2, 1962, game between the Philadelphia Warriors and the New York Knicks in which Wilt Chamberlain scored a record-shattering 100 points in a single game.
Many of the filthy words discussed in “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” from Carlin’s 1972 stand-up comedy album “Class Clown” still probably can’t be aired.
“Let’s face it, if this had happened today, it wouldn’t have caused such controversy,” Leggett said. “It definitely made an impact.”