In 1988, John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono gave a candid interview to record-label president Joe Smith about the Beatles’ split: “For John, it was a divorce. I think he was feeling very good about it, as if a big weight was off him.” Ono was among more than 200 celebrated performers, producers and industry leaders whose words Smith captured on audiotape more than 25 years ago in an effort to document the oral history of popular music.
In June 2012, Smith donated the collection of recordings to the Library of Congress—a tremendous assembly of primary-source oral histories covering perhaps the most important 50 years of popular music, nationally and internationally. On Wednesday, Nov. 28, the Library will make a series of these revealing, unedited recordings available for listening free to the public on its website at www.loc.gov/rr/record/joesmith/. The first group of recordings posted on the site will consist of 25 interviews. These include interviews with Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Bo Diddley and Linda Rondstadt. More recordings in the Smith collection will be added to the site over time.
All types of popular music are represented in the collection—from rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, rhythm & blues and pop to big-band, heavy metal, folk and country-western. The list of noted artists and executives is a veritable who’s who in the music industry. Among them are Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Little Richard, 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.
Smith’s 40-year career in the industry gave him unique entrée and for about a two-year period, he interviewed the biggest names in music. In 1988, he published excerpts from his interviews in the groundbreaking book “Off the Record” (Warner Books).
Read the Complete Announcement