Library of Congress adds Nas, Labelle, Kermit to National Recording Registry

WTOP's Jason Fraley reports on this year's inductees (Part 1)

A fresh crop of music just got enshrined in the annals of our nation’s history.

On Wednesday, the Library of Congress added 25 audio selections to the National Recording Registry, including a range of pop, hip-hop, country, Latin, Hawaiian, jazz, blues, gospel, classical and children’s music spanning from 1878 to 2008.

“The National Recording Registry will preserve our history through these vibrant recordings of music and voices that have reflected our humanity and shaped our culture from the past 143 years,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said.

The new class includes Janet Jackson’s album “Rhythm Nation 1814″ (1989), connecting “The Star Spangled Banner” to modern-day racial injustice.

“We wanted ‘Rhythm Nation’ to really communicate empowerment,” producer James Harris III said. “It was making an observation, but it was also a call to action. … The lyrics of ‘Rhythm Nation’ and ‘State of the World’ — some of those resonate just as powerfully, if not more so, as a narrative of what’s happening in society.”

It also includes Labelle’s iconic dance hit “Lady Marmalade” (1974), which rode its “Hey sista, go sista” chant and racy chorus all the way to No. 1 in the U.S.

“We knew it was a hit,” lead singer Patti LaBelle said.

Other cool additions include Nas’ iconic rap album “Illmatic,” Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and Kermit the Frog’s “The Rainbow Connection” by Jim Henson in “The Muppet Movie” (1979).

“Well, gee, it’s an amazing feeling to officially become part of our nation’s history,” Kermit said. “I am thrilled — I am thrilled! — to be the first frog on the list!”

In addition to the music, we also see radio’s power in capturing important history, such as Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run in 1961, as well as the very first podcast induction of NPR’s “This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money” (2008).

“My theory is that podcasting is most powerful for the same reason that radio is the most powerful,” host Ira Glass said. “That is, when you have a medium where you’re not seeing people, there’s just an intimacy to hearing somebody’s voice.”

See the full list of new inductees below:

National Recording Registry Class of 2021:

1. “St. Louis Tinfoil” — Thomas Edison (1878)
2. “Nikolina” — Hjalmar Peterson (1917) (single)
3. “Smyrneikos Balos” — Marika Papagika (1928) (single)
4. “When the Saints Go Marching In” — Louis Armstrong (1938) (single)
5. Christmas Eve Broadcast — FDR & Winston Churchill (Dec. 24, 1941)
6. “The Guiding Light” — Nov. 22, 1945
7. “Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues” — Odetta (1957) (album)
8. “Lord, Keep Me Day by Day” — Albertina Walker and the Caravans (1959) (single)
9. Roger Maris hits his 61st home run (October 1, 1961)
10. “Aida” — Leontyne Price, et.al. (1962) (album)
11. “Once a Day” — Connie Smith (1964) (single)
12. “Born Under a Bad Sign” — Albert King (1967) (album)
13. “Free to Be…You & Me” — Marlo Thomas and Friends (1972) (album)
14. “The Harder They Come” — Jimmy Cliff (1972) (album)
15. “Lady Marmalade” — Labelle (1974) (single)
16. “Late for the Sky” — Jackson Browne (1974) (album)
17. “Bright Size Life” — Pat Metheny (1976) (album)
18. “The Rainbow Connection” — Kermit the Frog (1979) (single)
19. “Celebration” — Kool & the Gang (1980) (single)
20. “Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs” — Jessye Norman (1983) (album)
21. “Rhythm Nation 1814” — Janet Jackson (1989) (album)
22. “Partners” — Flaco Jiménez (1992) (album)
23. “Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World” — Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1993) (single)
24. “Illmatic” — Nas (1994) (album)
25. “This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money” (May 9, 2008)

The new class brings the number of titles in the registry to 575, representing just a small portion of the library’s vast sound collection of nearly 3 million items.

WTOP's Jason Fraley reports on this year's inductees (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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