A rich cross-section of music and spoken word recordings - dating back to the earliest recording made of the human voice - has been announced by the Library of Congress, with its latest additions to the National Recording Registry. Country singers, blues and jazz artists, TV detectives, stand-up comics and humpback whales are just some of the legends whose recordings have been deemed worthy of preservation for future generations. The Registry's incomparable collection of music, documentaries, radio broadcasts and natural sounds captures the cultural history of America and the technical advancements in audio recording.
By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' - Edward Meeker
The unofficial anthem of America's national pastime, few of the earliest recordings of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' (composed in 1908) still exist. One was sung by vocalist Edward Meeker, who was accompanied on a Thomas Edison cylinder recording by the Edison Orchestra.
Houston-born Tejano artist Lydia Mendoza (1916-2007) came to be known as "La Alondra de la Frontera" - the Lark of the Border. Singing with her family's band as a child, Mendoza launched her solo career with the 1934 recording of "Mal Hombre," about a woman cruelly abandoned by her cold-hearted lover.
Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville (1853-1861) was trying to capture a visual representation of sound waves when he used a boar's-bristle stylus to etch musical vibrations onto a blackened glass plate, and later onto a hand-cranked paper cylinder. These etchings, made between 1853 and 1861, were not meant to be listened to - there was no way to play them back, anyway. Yet in 2008 First Sounds developed a means to recreate the sounds, using Scott's capture of a tuning fork to calibrate their pitch. What we have now are the earliest known audio recordings of the human voice, made before the Civil War. In the clip below, Scott himself recorded the French folk song "Au Clair de la Lune (By the Light of the Moon)" on April 9, 1860. (Left: One of Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville's 1860 phonautograms is examined in the archives of the Academie des Sciences of the Institut de France.)
Even those not old enough to have watched the 1950s TV detective series "Peter Gunn" will recognize its driving, gutsy theme song by Henry Mancini ("Breakfast at Tiffany's," "The Pink Panther"), who won an Emmy and 2 Grammys for the show's music. The record's success (it was one of the first TV soundtracks to be released commercially) only helped the series, and has certainly outlived the show's 3-year run.
'Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground' - Blind Willie Johnson
Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945), a blind African-American guitar-evangelist from Beaumont, Texas, evoked the Crucifixion in this wordless gospel tune drawn from an 18th century English hymn, "Gethsemane." Johnson recorded 30 titles between 1927 and 1930, but "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" may be his most sorrowful.
Accompanied by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, the Boswell Sisters - Connie, Martha and Vet - deliver brisk vocal harmonies in this 1931 recording of "It's the Girl," showcasing the swing and blues rhythms of their native New Orleans.
"Hydrophones" - special underwater microphones - were used to record the communication among humpback whales which - like pop music - evolves over time. This haunting 1970 album thereby represents an "oldie but goodie" from the cetacean set.
The Sons of the Pioneers was America's leading singing cowboy group, and their most famous anthem was the 1934 ballad "Tumbling Tumbleweeds." The group debuted in 1933 and has continuously perfomed (albeit with different members) ever since.
Ishi, the last surviving member of the Northern California Yahi Indian tribe and the last speaker of its language, recorded traditional Yahi songs and stories on wax cylinders between September 1911 and April 1914. The language is now extinct.
At the crossroads of America's progressive movement and the revival of folk music was the Almanac Singers, many of whose songs have become anthems for labor. Its members included Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, Sam Gary, Carol White, Bess Lomax Hawes, Pete Seeger and Josh White. The album "Talking Union" (1941) was first issued on 78 rpm and later expanded as an LP, featuring songs by Hayes, Lampell, Jim Garland and Woody Guthrie.
Tammy Wynette's signature ballad, 1968's "Stand By Your Man," is a country-western favorite - extolling the weakness of men and the strength of their women. The "First Lady of Country Music," Wynette (1942-1998) had 17 Number One hits, but this song - written by her and producer Billy Sherrill - was Number One of them all.
"The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest" - Rev. C.L. Franklin
Added to the Registry this year is a recording of Detroit-based pastor Rev. C. L. Franklin (1915-1984), whose 1953 sermon "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest" was released on three 78-rpm discs by African-American entrepreneur Joe Von Battle on his JVB label. Franklin's dramatic techniques were copied by other ministers - and gospel and blues singers, too. Franklin was also connected to another Detroit legend: His daughter, Aretha.
Washington, D.C.-based solo guitarist John Fahey produced 100 copies of his recording "Blind Joe Death" in 1959 - his compositions influenced by folk and blues recordings as well as the works of concert hall composers such as Bela Bartok. In later years Fahey re-recorded the performances in stereo.
"Trout Mask Replica" - Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
The look and sound may recall Frank Zappa, who happened to record this otherwise-categorizable 1969 album. But Don Van Vliet (stage name Captain Beefheart) and his cohort (Bill Harkleroad, Jeff Cotton, Victor Hayden, Mark Boston and John French) produced a blend of jazz, folk, blues and country memorable not only for its originality but for the inspiration it provided to rock, punk and new wave musicians ever since, from Siouxsie and the Banshees and Red Hot Chili Peppers to White Stripes.
Forget disco: 1977 saw the debut of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's rich blend of jazz, pop and blues - their sixth album as Steely Dan. "Aja," which contained such classic tracks as "Black Cow," "Home at Last" and "Deacon Blues," was the group's best-selling album, and won a Grammy for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording.
GOPAC Strategy and Instructional Tapes
GOPAC, founded in 1978, is a conservative 527 political organization dedicated to training state and local politicians and Republican Party operatives and supporting conservative candidates. Among its tools are instruction tapes made by noted conservatives leaders (such as former GOPAC chairman Newt Gingrich, pictured) on how to most effectively develop and press the conservative message to their audience - be they voters, the media, or donors. In the clip below, advice on how to use debates both as a forum for labeling opponents as supporters of the status quo, and in recording debates to use in messaging and media.
Sampling sources as diverse as Johnny Cash, Kraftwerk, Liberace and New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the hip hop trio De La Soul - Kelvin Mercer (Posdnuos), David Jolicoeur (Trugoy) and Vincent Mason (DJ Maseo) - and producer Prince Paul (Paul Hutson) produced an upbeat amalgam that became a touchstone of the genre.