Two dozen iconic sound recordings, ranging from Gloria Gaynor's feminist anthem "I Will Survive" to the George Carlin's infamous "Seven Dirty Words" comedy routine will be immortalized in American history by the US Library of Congress, the National Recording Registry announced Wednesday.
Recognized for their cultural, artistic, or historical significance, 25 recordings at least 10 years old are added to the registry annually. This year’s list includes singles like Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” and the Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go” as well as albums such as Santana’s “Abraxas,” and Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”
“These recordings, by a wide range of artists in many genres of music and in spoken word, will be preserved for future listeners,” acting Librarian of Congress David Mao said in a press release. “The collection of blues, jazz, rock, country and classical recordings, interspersed with important recordings of sporting events, speeches, radio shows and comedy, helps safeguard the record of what we’ve done and who we are.”
But the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry isn’t just for music. While songs and albums make up the majority of the 25-item list each year, there are typically other forms of spoken word “that are exceptionally meaningful and which must be remembered, and thus they are part of the very exclusive list this year,” explains Fortune.
Some non-music inductees this year include George Marshall’s speech on the Marshall Plan from 1947, fourth-quarter radio coverage of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game by announcer Bill Campbell in 1962, and George Carlin’s 1972 stand-up comedy album, "Class Clown."
In 1962, basketball star Wilt Chamberlain with the Philadelphia Warriors set the NBA’s record for most points for an individual player in one game with 100 points against the New York Knicks. The game was not televised, so without this audio recording of the game, there would be no record of Chamberlain’s mark, which remains unbroken today.
“You know, right now, in the middle of March Madness, it’s hard to imagine that 50 years ago or so basketball was not such a big deal,” Matthew Barton with the Library of Congress told NPR. “It didn’t have the following that baseball or football did so it wasn’t much on the networks.”
But the Warriors v. Knicks game was broadcast on Philadelphia radio station WCAU. Few basketball broadcasts have survived before the mid-1960s, but because a student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst decided to tape the game’s fourth quarter, the recording exists today in the Library of Congress.
“Thanks to one lone fan and the tape he preserved, we can hear what it is like to be there,” says NPR’s Neda Ulaby.
On Carlin’s "Class Clown" comedy album was his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” monologue where the comedian lists the seven words deemed unsuitable for US public airwaves, later referred to as "The Carlin Warning" by radio hosts. After a father complained to the Federal Communications Commission that his son had heard Carlin’s inappropriate sketch on the radio, the 1978 Supreme Court case FCC v. Pacifica Foundation established legal restrictions on offensive material in the media age.
And while not all inductees’ audio pieces led to a Supreme Court decision or mark an NBA record, many artists see the induction as an honor to their life’s work.
“ ‘I Will Survive’ is my mantra, the core of my God-given purpose,” said artist Gloria Gaynor when reached by the Library of Congress with the news. “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 sign and live the words: ‘I Will Survive.’ ”