Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” Inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry

Ritchie Valenshas earned a special place in U.S. recording history…

The late Mexican American singer/songwriter’s groundbreaking 1958 sensation “La Bamba”is one of the newest recordings inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress

Ritchie Valens

Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), is tasked with annually selecting 25 titles that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” and are at least 10 years old.

Valens, who was born Richard Valenzuelain Los Angeles in 1941, spoke English as his first language. Though he never mastered Spanish, he learned Spanish songs from his Mexican-American family, including “La Bamba,” a song from the Mexican state of Veracruz that was a favorite dance piece at weddings. 

Valens’ amplified guitar and power chords were a long way from the acoustic string band sounds of Mexico, but he successfully transposed the feeling and rhythm of the song to the back beat of early rock and roll. It was released as the b-side of his second single “Donna” in late 1958, and had become a hit on its own when he died at the age of 17 on February 3, 1959, in a plane crash that also took the lives of Buddy Hollyand J.P. Richardson, “The Big Bopper.” In spite of his brief life and a recording career that only lasted eight months, Valens’ success brought a new sound to the mainstream and inspired generations of Chicano musicians.

Los Lobos released its version of the song in 1987. “As a young boy growing up in East Los Angeles, I was curious and ultimately impressed by a rock song sung in Spanish — that song was ‘La Bamba’ by Ritchie Valens,” said Louie Pérez, one of the founding members and guitarist for Los Lobos. “It continues to be a hallmark in American music and an influence on all Latino music that followed.”

Spanish cellist, composer, and conductor Pablo Casals’ 1939 reimagining of the Bach cello suites was selected in the classical category. Raphaël Merlin, cellist of the acclaimed Ébène Quartet External, said: “There is a prophetic aspect to Pablo Casals’s work—he revealed his recording of the six Bach Cello Suites, and they instantly became our bible, and continue to offer revelations to cellists even to this day. At the same time, he also made a practical case for these works as an ideal way for a musician to exercise his or her mind, cultivate healthy playing technique, study counterpoint, and more. However you look at them, his recording of the suites still sounds like the opening of a new era.”

The new recordings to the National Recording Registry bring the total number of titles on the registry to 525, a small part of the Library’s vast recorded-sound collection of nearly 3 million items.

Here’s a look at the 25 recordings that were selected for inclusion in the registry in 2018:

2018 National Recording Registry

  1. Yiddish Cylinders from the Standard Phonograph Company of New York and the Thomas Lambert Company (c. 1901-1905)
  2. “Memphis Blues” (single), Victor Military Band (1914)
  3. Melville Jacobs Collection of Native Americans of the American Northwest (1929-1939)
  4. “Minnie the Moocher” (single), Cab Calloway (1931)
  5. “Bach Six Cello Suites” (album), Pablo Casals (c. 1939)
  6. “They Look Like Men of War” (single), Deep River Boys (1941)
  7. “Gunsmoke” — Episode: “The Cabin” (Dec. 27, 1952)
  8. Ruth Draper: Complete recorded monologues, Ruth Draper (1954-1956)
  9. “La Bamba” (single), Ritchie Valens (1958)
  10. “Long Black Veil” (single), Lefty Frizzell (1959)
  11. “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Vol. 1: The Early Years” (album), Stan Freberg (1961)
  12. “GO” (album), Dexter Gordon (1962)
  13. “War Requiem” (album), Benjamin Britten (1963)
  14. “Mississippi Goddam” (single), Nina Simone (1964)
  15. “Soul Man” (single), Sam & Dave (1967)
  16. “Hair” (original Broadway cast recording) (1968)
  17. Speech on the Death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy (April 4, 1968)
  18. “Sweet Caroline” (single), Neil Diamond (1969)
  19. “Superfly” (album), Curtis Mayfield (1972)
  20. “Ola Belle Reed” (album), Ola Belle Reed (1973)
  21. “September” (single), Earth, Wind & Fire (1978)
  22. “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” (single), Sylvester (1978)
  23. “She’s So Unusual” (album), Cyndi Lauper (1983)
  24. “Schoolhouse Rock!: The Box Set” (1996)
  25. “The Blueprint” (album), Jay-Z (2001)

Ronstadt Receives the National Medal of Arts

It’s turning out to be an extra special year for Linda Ronstadt

President Barack Obama awarded the 68-year-old Mexican American singer-songwriter the National Medal of Arts at a special ceremony on Monday at the White House.

Linda Ronstadt

During the ceremony, Obama, who hung the medal around Ronstadt’s neck, revealed, “I had a little crush on her back in the day.”

The honor was a particularly special moment for Ronstadt, who didn’t make it to her induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April since Parkinson’s disease limits her ability to travel. The same month her album Heart Like a Wheel was inducted into the Library of CongressNational Recording Registry.

A military aide brought her into the East Room by wheelchair, but she walked to the stage to receive her award as a citation was read honoring her “one-of-a-kind voice” that paved the way for generations of women artists.

Eleven other recipients were awarded the 2013 National Medal of Arts, as the nation’s highest award given to artists and their patrons, including DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and Dominican-American writer Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies.

Ten were awarded the National Humanities Medal, which honors those in fields including history, literature, languages and philosophy.

During her illustrious career, Ronstadt has earned 11 Grammy Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, and an ALMA Award. She’s also earned nominations for a Tony Award and a Golden Globe award.

Ronstadt’s “Heart Like a Wheel” Added to the National Recording Registry

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 CongressNational Recording Registry.

Linda Ronstadt Heart Like a Wheel

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 GeorgeIt 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.

López’s “Descargas: Cuban Jam Session in Miniature” Added to National Recording Registry

The late Cachao López has earned his place in U.S. history five years after his passing at the age of 89…

Descargas: Cuban Jam Session in Miniaturethe 1957 work from the Cuba-born Grammy-winning singer who helped popularize mambo in the United States is one of the recordings chosen to be part of the National Recording Registry this year in recognition of their importance to the nation’s aural legacy.

Descargas: Cuban Jam Session in Miniature

Inspired by the all-star jam sessions that Norman Granz organized and recorded for his Jazz at the Philharmonic series, López — a titan of Afro-Cuban music — sought to accomplish something similar with his peers in Havana. He brought musicians into the studio for two early morning sessions, when they were still fully charged up from their evening’s work in nightclubs and ballrooms.

Rather than record Granz’s previous longform jams, the 12 musicians López recruited created 12 short, spontaneous “miniature” pieces, each of which highlighted key instruments and facets of Afro-Cuban music. The resulting fusion seamlessly blended African, European and American influences.

The album has had a lasting impact on Latin music, especially on the salsa style that emerged in the 1960s, and López organized many similar sessions for further albums both in Cuba and in America, where he settled after the Cuban Revolution.

Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian of Congress, with advice from the library’s National Recording Preservation Board and input from the public, each year selects 25 recordings that are least 10 years old and “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

“Congress created the National Recording Registry to celebrate the richness and variety of our audio heritage and to underscore our responsibility for long-term preservation, to assure that legacy can be appreciated and studied for generations,”  Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement.

The latest selections bring the number of recordings in this preservation hall of fame to 375.