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How Did Green Day and Notorious B.I.G. End Up in the Library of Congress?

Other than making records, what do Green Day, the Notorious B.I.G., classic crooners Perry Como and Johnny Mathis, Latin music giant Héctor Lavoe, and the late Bill Withers have in common? Not much, until today: Works by all those musicians, and over a dozen more, were announced as the latest additions to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

Signed off on by then-president Bill Clinton in 2000, the Registry has aimed to collect recordings —musical performances, speeches, and other audio — deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically important.” The first list of 25, rolled out in 2002, staked its claim to being the world’s most wide-ranging playlist: Included were Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Bob Dylan’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley’s Sun Sessions, and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” alongside Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and 1890 field recordings of the indigenous Passamaquoddy tribe.

The 2024 class of inductees continues that eclectic range. The rock additions are Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic pop classic Surrealistic Pillow, the Cars’ debut album, Blondie’s Parallel Lines, Green Day’s Dookie and ABBA’s Arrival, which gave us “Dancing Queen” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” What is sometimes deemed the first rock record, Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats’ 1951 “Rocket ’88,” finally was included, as were Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

On the non-pop front, the Registry is now home to the Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces album, Gene Autry’s “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the Kronos Quartet’s modern classical album Pieces of Africa, Lee Morgan’s 1964 jazz album The Sidewinder, J.D. Crowe & the New South’s eponymous 1975 alt-bluegrass landmark, the Benny Goodman Sextet’s 1939 “Rose Room” (featuring Charlie Christian), Lily Tomlin’s 1971 comedy LP This Is a Recording and a collection of Wisconsin folksongs. The oldest recording, from 1919, is “Clarinet Marmalade” by Lt. James Reese Europe’s 369th U.S. Infantry (Hell Fighters) Band, an historic all-Black military group. Released in 1928, Viola Turpeinen and John Rosendahl’s “Kauhavan Polkka” was a Finnish-American music milestone.

Hip-hop is represented by the Notorious B.I.G’.s Ready to Die and the Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick jam “La-Di-Da-Di.” Pre-rock pop singles are Perry Como’s “Catching a Falling Star”/”Magic Moments,” Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are,” and Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz.” Reflecting the input of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Latin music is honored with Lavoe’s salsa classic “El Cantante”(written by Ruben Blades) and Juan Gabriel’s single “Amor Eterno.”

“The last few years, the Caucus has been very helpful,” says Dr. Carla Hayden, the head Librarian of Congress since 2016. “It helps to have different cultural groups saying, ‘This is what is significant in our area. This is our ‘Ain’t No Sunshine.’”

Appointed by Barack Obama, Hayden is the last word on what makes the cut. Fans, genre advisory boards and music business professionals (including Chuck D. and Jason Moran) submit considerations, with the latter two whittling down the list to 50; Hayden then selects the final 25. Hayden arrived in time to see David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Don McLean’s epic “American Pie,” Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, and N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton be included. “Coming into the process, I listened to the discussion and right away heard there was a need to cover different genres and acknowledge them,” Hayden, 71, says. “So that’s why you could have rap or different generational things.”  

As for this year’s rock and pop choices, Hayden says, of Parallel Lines, “That was that new-wave kind of thing, but it also crossed over and became this cultural phenomenon. A lot of us thought Deborah Harry was the coolest thing. The Cars weren’t that well known when the album came out, from what I understand. But they made such inroads, again with what whole new wave.” As for Dookie, which turns 30 year this year, Hayden says, “Some of my colleagues were very excited about that one. They said, ‘This is Green Day — I played it all the time.’”

Hayden says she settled on the former Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces since, she says, “they paved the way for Taylor Swift for broadening country music.” ABBA, she says, were also “a cultural phenomenon. The movie, ‘Dancing Queen,’ all of that. You can sing along. It’s a karaoke thing. Talk about crossover! With Biggie, we just had the 50th anniversary of hip-hop celebration. People are still talking about Biggie. It still has staying power. The songs are still being played.”

Hayden herself was happy to pick “Don’t Worry Be Happy” for the lineup. “I remember that one, and it surprised me that it hadn’t been on,” she says. “You can’t get it out of your head once you say it! It was everywhere. Plus, Bobby McFerrin did all that with just his mouth.” She was also pleased to sign off on Mathis’ eternal “Chances Are,” one of her mother’s favorites.

Tucked away on the National Recording Registry site is a list of musical acts who have yet to make the cut. The lineup is eye-opening: After 22 years, the list still doesn’t include anything by Elton John, B.B. King, James Taylor, OutKast, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Drake, George Strait, the Mamas and the Papas, Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, Van Halen, the Byrds, John Mellencamp, Guns N’ Roses, Emmylou Harris or Aerosmith, among many. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Deja Vu made it in, but nothing by Neil Young on his own.


Hayden says publishing the list is intentional, a way to encourage the public to get involved: “Oh, yeah —we want people to start thinking about it.” Hayden herself won’t reveal which 25 recordings she nixed this year. “I can’t tell you what I had to cut out!” she says. “Just look at next year’s. You might see something.”

Since any recordings have to be at least 10 years old before they’re considered, Hayden advises that it will be a while before a culturally significant work like Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter is up for contention. “I’m sure people have it on their list and they’re waiting,” she says. “But people can still put on the older Beyoncé [records]. This might be the time. They have to step it up!”

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