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Songs from the likes of Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday are among the more than 200,000 master recordings that Universal Music Group is donating to the Library of Congress, it was announced Monday.
UMG’s gift is the largest single donation received by the Library’s audiovisual Recorded Sound Section and the first major collection of studio master materials obtained by the nation’s oldest cultural institution.
Also among the collection’s thousands of metal and lacquer discs and master mono tapes are released and unreleased versions of recordings by Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, the Andrews Sisters, Connee Boswell, the Mills Brothers, Guy Lombardo, Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Waring, Judy Garland and Dinah Washington.
The gift includes Crosby’s 1947 version of “White Christmas,” Armstrong’s “Ain’t Misbehavin,’ ” the Mills Brothers’ “Paper Doll,” Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s duet “Frim Fram Sauce,” Les Paul’s “Guitar Boogie,” Josh White’s “Jim Crow Train” and recordings from Machito and his Afro-Cuban band.
UMG has one of the world’s most extensive music catalogs, and its gift to the Library includes historic masters from such labels as Decca, Mercury, Vocalion and Brunswick dating from the late 1920s through the late ’40s.
The collection, which consists of the company’s best copies, will be cataloged and digitized at the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., which will secure their exceptional sonic quality. The Library will stream recordings from the collection on a website to be launched in the spring.
“A surprisingly high percentage of America’s recording heritage since the early part of the 20th century has been lost due to neglect and deterioration. The donation of the UMG archive to the Library of Congress is a major gift to the nation,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said.
In September, a study released by the Library estimated that only 14% of commercially released recordings before 1965 are available from rightsholders, and of music released in the U.S. during the ’30s, only about 10% can be readily accessed by the public.
“Music is a distinctive feature of any historical period, and this particular collection of masters provides true insight into popular music’s humble beginnings and who we are as a culture today,” UMG president and COO Zach Horowitz said. “We are delighted to be collaborating with the Library of Congress to preserve and call attention to the groundbreaking musical achievements of these amazing musical pioneers.”
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