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10 Songs In the National Recording Registry That Might Surprise You

Even government institutions need snazzy logos like this.
Even government institutions need snazzy logos like this.

Here's something you may not have realized. The U.S. government passed a law to preserve important films in the Library of Congress back in 1988, but it took them until 2000 to get around to doing so for recordings. We music lovers get no respect.

Luckily, Congress did finally get around to archiving our nation's recorded history, and since then has done so a rapid pace. Since 2002, the National Recording Preservation Board has chosen 25 recordings to archive within the Library of Congress every year.

Since so much material has been preserved in the 125-someodd years since recording technology was invented, it's a little bit difficult to archive everything everyone considers important. You've got your FDR speeches, MLK speeches, your moon-landing communications, and your Thomas Edison's primitive, pioneering exhibition recordings from circa 1888.

But what about music? Who's to say what's important enough to archive for future generations? Luckily, the National Recording Preservation Board decides that for us every year, but man, sometimes they pick some weird stuff.

In light of that, I went through all their selections and picked out the ten least likely candidates to make it in. Not that these didn't deserve it, but when you're working with a field of every American recording ever made, it's surprising that these were chosen above all the others.

10. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "The Message" One of the earliest and greatest hip-hop songs, the NRPB totally didn't just add this in 2002's first round of picks to look like they were down with the kids and the hippin' and the hoppin'. Not at all.

9. Otis Redding, "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" I could never dis the inclusion of Otis Redding. What I can dis is that this has been the only song of his the NRPB decided was important enough to include thus far. Come on, the entirety of the man's recordings should be in by now.

8. Public Enemy, "Fight the Power" The irony of "Fight the Power" being housed in the Library of Congress, along with the rest of Public Enemy's seminal 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet, is just too much for me.

 

7. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, "Will the Circle be Unbroken" It's tough to dissociate them from their wildly more popular "Mr. Bojangles" cover, unfortunately, but the NRPB doesn't care about hits.

6. Joni Mitchell, "For the Roses" More proof that the NRPB doesn't care about hits: they picked For the Roses over Blue. Hardcore Joni Mitchell fans gave this choice a massive thumbs-up and a huge sigh of relief, their efforts finally recognized.

5. Sonic Youth, "Hey Joni" Speaking of Joni, Sonic Youth's rousing tribute to the Canadian-born singer was also selected for inclusion by the NRPB, along with the rest of Daydream Nation. Score one for indie kids too; it made it in years before Thriller.

 

4. De La Soul, "Me Myself and I" And unlike BET, the NRPB apparently likes De La Soul's "intelligent" brand of hip-hop just fine.

3. The Bee Gees, "Stayin' Alive" Oh shut up, you know you love it just as much as the NRPB does. In actuality, the whole Saturday Night Fever soundtrack made it in, pleasing your parents immensely.

2. Steely Dan, Aja Dads around the world also rejoiced the moment Steely Dan's Aja was inducted in its entirety. Sorry moms, the other Steely Dan is still out of circulation. Check antique shops.

 

1. R.E.M., "Radio Free Europe (Original Hib-Tone Single Mix)" Okay guys, I have to call foul here. R.E.M. was far too good of a band for their only contribution to the National Recording Registry to be the first mix of their first single! Throw in Document, Automatic for the People, hell, even New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Michael Stipe and Co. went on to do much more impressive things. But hey, we'll take what we can get: at least R.E.M. is in.



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