Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the Madonna album “Like a Virgin,” and the theme music from the Nintendo video game “Super Mario Bros.” all now share a unique distinction: they are some of the latest recordings being added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, to be preserved for future generations.
On Wednesday the Library announced 25 audio recordings — the oldest dating back to 1908 — that are being inducted to the Registry, a compendium of sound recordings deemed representative of America’s artistic, cultural and historic treasures.
Also selected this year: “Déjà Vu,” one of the rock era’s greatest albums, by the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; John Denver’s nostalgic ballad, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”; Mariah Carey’s holiday hit, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”; the fifth studio album by The Police, “Synchronicity”; “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics; and one of Louis Armstrong’s earliest recordings, “Sugar Foot Stomp.”
Also: “Sherry,” the first #1 hit by The Four Seasons; Jackie DeShannon’s recording of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song “What the World Needs Now Is Love”; Bobbie Gentry’s haunting “Ode to Billie Joe”; Jimmy Buffett’s infectious ode to breakups, “Margaritaville”; jazz great Wynton Marsalis’ Grammy-winning “Black Codes (From the Underground)”; and Irene Cara‘s Oscar-winning theme to the movie “Flashdance.”
Recordings in the Registry encompass all genres, from pop, rock, jazz, blues, country, classical and rap, to spoken word, radio broadcasts and podcasts, each vital to our nation’s audio legacy.
“The National Recording Registry preserves our history through recorded sound and reflects our nation’s diverse culture,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “The national library is proud to help ensure these recordings are preserved for generations to come.”
The recordings added this year bring the number of titles on the registry to 625, a small portion of the Library of Congress’ vast recorded sound collection, encompassing nearly four million items.
According to the library, more than 1,100 recordings were nominated by the public for the Registry this year.
Read about this year’s 25 additions to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry and listen to audio samples below — and find out how you can nominate titles to be added to the Registry.
2023 National Recording Registry Additions
“All Hail the Queen” (album) by Queen Latifah (1989)
The rapper and singer born in Newark, N.J., had her first single out at age 17. At 18 she signed the contract for her debut album, “All Hail the Queen.” The record, which fused rap, reggae and jazz, featured the hit singles “Ladies First,” “Dance For Me,” “Come Into My House” and “Mama Gave Birth to the Soul Children.”
Though not the first female rapper, Latifah was a trailblazer, also becoming an Oscar-nominated actress (for “Chicago”) and TV star, as well as a Grammy-winner.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Ladies First” (with Monie Love), from “All Hail the Queen”
“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey (1994)
First released in October 1994, this new holiday standard has continually revisited charts at Christmastime, becoming the most downloaded song of Mariah Carey’s career, and the best-selling holiday song ever recorded by a female artist.
She and co-writer Walter Afanasieff (a.k.a. Baby Love) were longtime collaborators, having worked on “Can’t Let Go,” “Hero,” and “Anytime You Need a Friend.” They concocted “All I Want for Christmas Is You” quickly, improvising the music, and creating lyrics that became as synonymous with the holiday as Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”:
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
And I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree.
I don’t need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace.
Santa Claus won’t make me happy
With a toy on Christmas Day.
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know.
Make my wish come true.
All I want for Christmas is you
In 2016 when “Sunday Morning” asked Afanasieff why he thinks the song has endured, he said, “Because it didn’t fall into any genre except for a very, very tried-and-true rock ‘n’ roll genre. That no matter what year it is, it’s always that sentimental, yesteryear feeling. It’s timeless, that’s what it is.”
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
“Black Codes (From the Underground)” (album) by Wynton Marsalis (1985)
The co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the first artist to win Grammys for both classical and jazz, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, himself the son of a jazz legend, has been mastering the art form since his youth in New Orleans. “I like pressure. I like that. I like the challenge. I don’t have a problem with it at all. I like the feeling of nervousness. I like the feeling that something counts. And I like to be tested,” he told “60 Minutes” in 2011. “Man, when you’re playing, and you’re playing with other people, it’s such a combination of emotion, it’s so intense. And when you make a tender statement or something’s real sweet and you just caress a note that takes more intensity, it’s powerful.”
One of his most successful recordings, and a winner of two Grammy Awards, “Black Codes (From the Underground)” harks back to the acoustic jazz of the 1950s and ’60s, but with a post-bop feel. Marsalis (who was only 23 at the time) is joined by drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, Charnett Moffett and Ron Carter (a Miles Davis Quintet alumnus) on bass, pianist Kenny Kirkland, and Wynton’s brother, Branford Marsalis, on saxophone.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Black Codes (From the Underground)”
“Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra” by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (2012)
Composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1982 “Symphony No. 1,” had written the first movement of her clarinet concerto before the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Consequently, the energy of the piece’s opening is replaced in the succeeding movements by sorrow, anger and, in the words of New York magazine, “cautious optimism.”
This live recording of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ransom Wilson and featuring clarinetist David Shifrin, was made in Portland, Oregon, in 2004 during the piece’s West Coast premiere.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra”
“Déjà Vu” (album), by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
In 1969 David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash had formed a supergroup, with impeccable timing — their second gig was a little show called Woodstock — and their first album, “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” rose to #6 on the Billboard chart. By the time they recorded their second album, “Déjà Vu,” they had expanded to include Stills’ former bandmate from Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young.
But the album came at a particularly fraught time. Stills had just broken up with Judy Collins; Nash’s relationship with Joni Mitchell was growing rocky; and Crosby’s girlfriend, Christine Hinton, had been killed in a car crash. “I was in terrible shape,” Crosby told “Sunday Morning” in 2021. “I was damn near destroyed. I’m just really lucky we were making that record, because it gave me a raison d’être. … It’s what kept me alive.”
In addition to the opening track, “Carry On,” the album included “Woodstock,” “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” “Helpless,” “4 + 20,” “Country Girl,” and “Everybody I Love You.” “There’s masterpieces in there,” said Stills. “Ain’t a dog in the bunch!”
And while the band did not endure, their album has, selling more than eight million copies. It is considered one of the greatest albums of the rock era.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Carry On,” from “Déjà Vu”
“Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around” by The Fairfield Four (1947)
Country Music Hall of Fame
With its origins in the 1920s as an a capella gospel trio, the Fairfield Four, formed at the Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville, would become fixtures on radio and on recordings, showcasing the jubilee style of gospel. With changing membership, The Fairfield Four would continue, on and off, for one hundred years, even winning Grammys in 1997 and 2015 (and sharing an Album of the Year Grammy in 2002 for their participation in the soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”).
At their second recording session for the Bullet label in 1947, the quartet recorded “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around” (which would become their signature song), led by tenor The Rev. Sam McCrary.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around”
Dorothy Thompson: Commentary and Analysis of the European Situation for NBC Radio (Aug. 23-Sept. 6, 1939)
Library of Congress
In the 1920s and ’30s print journalist, columnist and broadcaster Dorothy Thompson covered politics and culture in Europe.
In late August 1939, Thompson made daily broadcasts on NBC analyzing Hitler’s launch of war.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: Dorothy Thompson broadcast
“Flashdance…What a Feeling” by Irene Cara (1983)
Take your passion
And make it happen
Pictures come alive
You can dance right through your life
What a feeling
For the 1983 film “Flashdance,” about a young dancer played by Jennifer Beals who dreams of making it in ballet in spite of her blue-collar street cred, Irene Cara (who had a Top 10 hit with the theme from “Fame”) co-wrote and performed the title track, “Flashdance … What A Feeling,” which would sit on top of the Billboard charts for six weeks. She would share the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for best original song with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey. They also shared a Grammy for the film’s soundtrack album.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Flashdance … What a Feeling”
“Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee (2004)
Reggaeton, a genre of music inspired by hip hop, spread across Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Latin America through underground recordings and bootlegs.
Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee came up with the term reggaeton, and his 2004 song “Gasolina,” featured on his album “Barrio Fino,” was the first reggaeton track to be nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Gasolina”
“Imagine” by John Lennon (1971)
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky
The former Beatle’s bestselling solo single, “Imagine” has moved beyond the realm of pop music and taken on the mantle of secular hymn — a cry for worldwide peace, performed as a tribute during times of mourning, and as an aspiration in times of celebration. It has been covered by hundreds of artists, in performances beamed across the globe.
Its thought-provoking lyrics would stir controversy (particularly its suggestion that competing religions stood in the way of peace), but it was hard to argue with Lennon’s very humanistic cry for empathy and love without borders or boundaries.
The song was produced by Lennon, Yoko Ono (she would later share songwriting credit) and Phil Spector. In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine listed “Imagine” at #3 on its roster of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Imagine”
“Like a Virgin” (album) by Madonna (1984)
Madonna Ciccone, who was only 5 years old when she lost her mother to breast cancer, said the trauma of that loss fueled her rebellious nature and her famous desire to push the envelope. “When I was younger I just used to say things, do crazy things,” she told “Sunday Morning” in 2017. “Just to be a punk. Just to irritate people.”
Why? “I don’t know, ’cause that’s part of growing up, isn’t it?”
She grew up to become a pop music phenomenon, whose punkish couture, rebellious and racy image, engaging voice and catchy tunes merged into an iconic artist who would sell more than 200 million records. Her first, eponymous album, in 1983, put her on the map. But her second collection, “Like a Virgin,” peaked at #1 on the Billboard chart — her first of nine albums to do so.
Produced by Madonna and Nile Rodgers, the album features “Material Girl,” “Angel,” “Over and Over,” “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” “Dress You Up,” “Shoo-Bee-Doo,” “Pretender,” “Stay,” and the title track.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Like a Virgin”
“Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett (1977)
Raised in Alabama, Jimmy Buffett tried to break into the music business in Nashville, but it was in New Orleans in the early 1970s, he says, that was his training ground, playing for tourists in the clubs and on the streets. He eventually moved to Key West, Florida, refining his country-meets-Caribbean sound, and his career took off.
With his third album, 1977’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” he scored his breakthrough Top 10 hit, “Margaritaville,” which became Buffett’s signature tune – a Florida Keys-drenched ode to the kind of heartache that can only be salved with a potent beverage (and a gradual self-realization of blame).
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Margaritaville”
“Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry (1967)
Library of Congress
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge
Singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry’s ode to a young man’s death, and the seeming indifference to tragedy, was most vividly conveyed in her lyrics about a young woman learning the news of a friend’s suicide. Gentry was only 25 when she wrote and recorded the song, which is arresting in its sparse sound and Southern Gothic language, hinting at the mystery of the girl’s connection to the young man.
And what exactly did the two of them throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge the day before his death? Gentry says she knows but will not say. A 1976 film, starring Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Connor, offered one answer. But the song, and its inherent mystery, survives that film.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Ode to Billie Joe”
“Pale Blue Dot” (audiobook) by Carl Sagan (1994)
In 1990, as Voyager 1 was reaching the edge of the solar system, Carl Sagan asked NASA to have a photo taken of Earth from a distance of about four billion miles. The resulting mosaic of images used to create a family portrait of our solar system, with a tiny dot representing Earth — all of humanity, and the only known life in the universe — resulted in Sagan’s 1994 book, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.”
In the audiobook recording, Sagan speaks of the responsibility that all Mankind has to preserve the only world sustaining life as we know it — a tiny speck in the cosmos.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Pale Blue Dot”
“St. Louis Blues” by Handy’s Memphis Blues Band (1922)
Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress
Songwriter, band leader and musicologist W.C. Handy (1873-1958) was called the “Father of the Blues,” helping to spread the popularity of the blues across racial lines.
His “St. Louis Blues” was one of the first blues compositions to enjoy success as a pop song.
It would later be covered by such artists as Bessie Smith, Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Benny Goodman.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “St. Louis Blues”
“Sherry” by The Four Seasons (1962)
One of the most popular groups of the 1960s and early ’70s, The Four Seasons (Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi) had five #1 hit songs, their first being “Sherry.”
Written by Gaudio (initially as a tribute to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy), “Sherry” would be a familiar song on film and TV soundtracks, and of course was featured prominently in the musical and film “Jersey Boys,” which told the story of the Four Seasons.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Sherry”
“Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin (1971)
Led Zeppelin sold more than 300 million records and remains, today, one of rock’s greatest groups. Guitarist and producer Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, drummer John Bonham and singer Robert Plant produced some of the era’s most memorable music, but their “Stairway to Heaven” — featured on their untitled 1971 album, usually referred to as “Led Zeppelin IV” — was masterful. Starting with a plaintive acoustic guitar and recorder, the music begins a slow, 7:55 build to one of the most invigorating guitar solos and demonstrations of percussive power ever recorded.
Though the song wasn’t officially released as a single (how many eight-minute-long 45 rpms have you seen?), the album went platinum 24x in the U.S. alone, and the song’s popularity made it a mainstay of FM radio and near the top of various “greatest rock songs” lists. More than three decades after its release, “Stairway to Heaven” would hit the charts on its own once sales of digital downloads began being tracked.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Stairway to Heaven”
“Sugar Foot Stomp” by Fletcher Henderson (1926)
Fletcher Henderson (1897-1952) was one of the most successful African American bandleaders in the early 20th century, playing in establishments like New York’s Roseland Ballroom. But his reputation was boosted once he hired cornetist Louis Armstrong.
In this recording of “Sugar Foot Stomp” (arranged by Don Redman), with Henderson on piano, Armstrong lands a 36-bar solo (based on Joe Oliver’s “Dipper Mouth Blues”). Also featured are Charlie “Big” Green (trombone), Elmer Chambers and Joe Smith (trumpets), Buster Bailey and Don Redman (clarinet & alto sax), Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax & clarinet), Charlie Dixon (banjo), Ralph Escudero (tuba), and Kaiser Marshall (drums).
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Sugar Foot Stomp”
Super Mario Bros. theme by Koji Kondo (1986)
Inspired in part by the music of the Japanese jazz fusion band T-Square, Koji Kondo concocted the jaunty accompaniment for the classic Nintendo video game. Its Latin flavor would help it become one of the most recognizable musical themes of the era.
The music, which has inspired a generation of video game composers, leaped from its game origins to become one of the most popular downloadable ringtones, and has been performed by symphony orchestras.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: Super Mario Bros. theme
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics (1983)
Scottish singer Annie Lennox, who showed an artistic bent at an early age, dropped out of a London music academy when she found it too restrictive. She drifted around until 1980 when she teamed up with another struggling musician, Dave Stewart, and something clicked. “We found something that was a particular sound, a particular style, and that was really thrilling in a way,” she told “Sunday Morning” in 2007. “Because I think that is the journey as a creative artist, to find something authentic and identifiable.”
First collaborating as part of the rock band The Tourists, Lennox and Stewart would become the pioneering new wave duo Eurythmics, who pushed the envelope of electronic rock and the developing medium of music videos. With their 1983 release “Sweet Dreams,” which hit #1 in the U.S. they became worldwide stars.
A synth-pop song with a propulsive drum and synth line, it also had lyrics that, Lennox told The Guardian in 2017, were hopeless and nihilistic. “From that first line, it’s not a happy song. It’s dark. ‘Sweet dreams are made of this’ is basically me saying: ‘Look at the state of us. How can it get worse?’ … ‘I travelled the world and the seven seas, everybody’s looking for something’ was about how we’re all in this perpetual state of seeking. It’s about surviving the world. It’s not a normal song so much as a weird mantra that goes round and round, but somehow it became our theme song.”
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
“Synchronicity” (album) by The Police (1983)
Gordon Sumner worked as a school teacher by day and moonlighted as a musician by night until one day he packed up and moved to London. He told “Sunday Morning” in 2006, “Well, I was in my mid-twenties. I had a job with a pension plan. And the window was beginning to close on my dream. So I thought, ‘Well, I either make this leap now, or this is it for life.'”
Virtually self-taught, he’d mastered the bass guitar while playing in jazz clubs, and along the way picked up a nickname, due to his wearing a black-and-yellow striped sweater. By the late ’70s and early ’80s, Sting, guitarist Andy Summers, and drummer Stewart Copeland, known as The Police, were the biggest rock band in the world, with three #1 albums before the release of their fifth and final studio collaboration, “Synchronicity.”
It, too, went to #1, and birthed the hits “Every Breath You Take,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” and “King of Pain.”
The album won three Grammy Awards.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Every Breath You Take,” from “Synchronicity”
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver (1971)
Almost Heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growing like a breeze
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads
One of the co-writers of one of John Denver’s most recognizable ballads had never even been in West Virginia, when he and his partner, Taffy Nivert, played an early draft of the song for their friend. Danoff told “Sunday Morning” in 2021 that the song evoked nostalgia, no matter where home was: “When it came out in ’71, you know, the Vietnam War was really rockin’. And we had, oh, hundreds of thousands of troops over there. So, coming home was a big, big deal.”
The three of them completed the song, which became Denver’s first big hit. And despite some questionable geography (the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River in the lyrics are barely within the state’s borders), West Virginians embraced it in a big way. But the song has held enduring appeal outside of the state and across the globe, its message appropriated to wherever home is.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
“The Very First Mariachi Recordings 1908-1909” (album) by Cuarteto Coculense
In 1998 Arhoolie Records collected and released the very first recordings of mariachi music that had been made by musicians from Cocula, Jalisco, known as the Cuarteto Coculense.
The Columbia, Edison and Victor companies, which had set up facilities in Mexico City, made the recordings on wax cylinders and 78 rpm discs, capturing the power and vitality of the performances by the fiddlers and guitarists.
The Mexican Revolution in 1910 would shutter the recording studios, putting a pause on further recordings, until radio broadcasting could expand the audience for this genre.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: Cuarteto Coculense mariachi recording
“Wang Dang Doodle” by Koko Taylor (1966)
In 1966 Koko Taylor, one of the great voices of Chicago Blues, teamed up with bassist and producer Willie Dixon to record Dixon’s 1960 song “Wang Dang Doodle,” which had previously been performed by Howlin’ Wolf.
Taylor’s version reached #4 on the R&B chart, and would later be inducted in the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “Wang Dang Doodle”
“What the World Needs Now Is Love” by Jackie DeShannon (1965)
Burt Bacharach and Hal David composed some of the ’60s and ’70s most memorable pop tunes for some of the biggest stars, from Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and the Carpenters to their frequent collaborator, Dionne Warwick. But Warwick initially turned down their song “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” which was written in the tempo of a waltz. Instead, singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon, who’d previously released three albums (including 1964’s “Breakin’ It Up on the Beatles Tour”) recorded the tune as the opening track of her 1965 album, “This Is Jackie DeShannon.”
The recording became a Top 10 hit, and earned DeShannon a Grammy for best female vocal performance. The song would be later covered by such artists as The Sweet Inspirations, The Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Wynonna Judd, Stan Getz, Jack Jones, Ferrante & Teicher, DJ Tom Clay, and Warwick herself.
PLAY AN EXCERPT: “What the World Needs Now Is Love”
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You can also sample previous years’ additions here: