More than 25 years ago, retired music executive Joe Smith accomplished a Herculean feat—he got more than 200 celebrated singers, musicians and industry icons to talk about their lives, music, experiences and contemporaries. The Library of Congress announced today that Smith has donated this treasure trove of unedited sound recordings to the nation’s library.
The list of noted artists and executives is a veritable who’s who in the music industry. They include Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Elton John, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Sting, Tony Bennett, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Dick Clark, Tina Turner, Tom Jones, B.B. King, Quincy Jones, David Geffen, Mickey Hart, Harry Belafonte and many others. All types of popular music are represented—from rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, rhythm & blues and pop to big-band, heavy metal, folk and country-western.
While president of Capitol Records/EMI, Smith recorded 238 hours of interviews over two years, excerpts of which he compiled and presented in his groundbreaking book, “Off the Record,” published by Warner Books in 1988. These candid and unabridged interviews have been digitized by the Library and initially will be accessible in its Capitol Hill reading room. Some of the recordings also will be streamed on the Library’s website later this year.
As an insider, Smith connected with the artists on a personal level, leading to some interesting revelations.
- Bo Diddley talking about his own death
- Mickey Hart’s revealing story about his father
- Steven Tyler’s problems with drug addiction
- Peter Frampton’s short-lived popularity
- Bob Dylan’s surprising assessment of the turbulent ‘60s
- David Bowie’s description of Mick Jagger as conservative
- Paul McCartney’s frank admission of professional superiority
- Les Paul’s creation of an electric guitar in 1929
- Motown’s restrictive work environment
- Herb Jeffries’ and Dave Brubeck’s recollections of working in a racially segregated society
The recordings in the Joe Smith Collection will be housed in the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., a state-of-the-art facility that was made possible through the generosity of David Woodley Packard and the Packard Humanities Institute, with benefaction from the U.S. Congress. The Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division’s collections include nearly 3 million sound recordings.
Library of Congress Acquires Large Collection of Recorded Interviews With Music Superstars
Filed by June 18, 2012on