One of Linda Ronstadt’s most acclaimed recordings will live on in the archives of American history…
The 67-year-old Mexican American singer’s Grammy-winning fifth solo album Heart Like a Wheel has been inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
The album, released in 1974, is considered to be Ronstadt’s masterpiece recording and a pioneering blueprint of country rock.
In the 1970s, a decade that saw the rise of singer-songwriters, Ronstadt – who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month – was a bit of an anomaly. Primarily an interpreter, she was blessed with excellent taste in song selection and the talent to put her own stamp on each of her covers.
Heart Like a Wheel continued her tradition of eclecticism and featured covers of songs by Hank Williams, Paul Anka and Little Feat’s Lowell George. It also shows a keen ear for new material, like the achingly beautiful title track by Anna McGarrigle.
What made this album different from Ronstadt’s previous efforts was the additions of producer Peter Asher, who had been crucial to the career of James Taylor, and Andrew Gold, who arranged the music and played several instruments on the album sessions.
Ronstadt told the Library of Congress that the title track on the album “became an iconic song for me. That was the first chance I got to record a little bit more complex, emotionally, pieces instead of just trying to sing rock ’n’ roll. I never thought of myself as a rock ’n’ roll singer. I sang rock ’n’ roll because I liked to eat.”
Heart Like a Wheel was the first of Ronstadt’s three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart, reaching the summit for the week ending February 15, 1975, alongside the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, “You’re No Good.”
But Ronstadt’s prized work isn’t the only Latin album among the latest batch of 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” recordings to be preserved this year.
Celia & Johnny, the album released in 1974 by the late Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco, is also being inducted into the National Recording Registry.
Cuba’s Cruz was a dominant artist in the Afro-Cuban scene of the 1950s, when she sang with the great Sonora Matancera band. She came to America in 1962 and did well initially, but by the early 1970s, her career entered a slump as Latin styles nurtured in the U.S. became dominant.
For this album, rather than re-create the large orchestras that Cruz usually fronted, Pacheco – a New York-based bandleader and co-founder of the Fania Records label — assembled a small group that included pianist Papo Lucca, tres player Charlie Martinez and several percussionists, including himself.
This proved to be the perfect setting for Cruz to reach a newer and younger audience while remaining true to her roots. And she responded with some of the most inspired singing of her career, especially in the album’s many improvised passages. The album’s opening rumba, “Quimbara,” was a huge dance-floor hit, and Cruz soon was acclaimed as the Queen of Salsa.
This year’s 25 selections raise the number of recordings in the registry to 400, a fraction of the Library’s vast recorded sound collection of more than 3.5 million items.
Every year, the Librarian of Congress, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board, selects 25 recordings that are at least 10 years old; the best existing versions of each are housed in the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va.
“These recordings represent an important part of America’s culture and history,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said. “As technology continually changes and formats become obsolete, we must ensure that our nation’s aural legacy is protected. The National Recording Registry is at the core of this effort.”
Nominations were gathered through online submissions from the public and the NRPB.