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American Song

How about listening to a little new music this spring? Or making a playlist to give to a friend? You could select the Carter Family (Johnny Cash's in-laws) singing "Stay on the Sunnyside." Or the Drifters' "Up on the Roof." Maybe Willie Nelson's live performance of "Hey Good Looking?" The original "Stay" by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs? Or perhaps—from the spoken word category—an interview with Elvis Presley aged 21 at the local radio station in Wichita Falls, Texas? Elvis explains, by the way, that just before getting into the music business, he was driving a truck but training to become an electrician.

All of these recordings and many more—the database currently has 6,834 albums with 114,689 tracks but is always expanding—are available. The very eclectic collection of music includes country, blues, folk, hip hop, Motown, rock, and many other genres. Recent artists added to the database reflect its diversity: Ike & Tina Turner, Eddie Bill Haley, Gene Autry, Rudy Vallee, Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Mahalia Jackson, John Denver, James Brown & The Famous Flames, and The Highwaymen.

The database also presents United States history and culture through song. Collections of music that reflect events from the colonial period to the American Revolution to the Civil War to the civil rights movement to 9/11 are included. Regional music is represented by places as diverse as California, the Ohio Valley, and North Carolina with its mountain imports of Scottish ballads. African American music from many eras is also very strongly represented. In the spoken word category, recordings of Malcolm X and of Martin Luther King, Jr. are provided. The database also has songs by and about American Indians, miners, immigrants, slaves, children, pioneers, and cowboys, as well as music from protest movements and political campaigns. And even such unique and curious cultural material as Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings From The 1890s illustrate how standards have changed. Liner notes to all the albums are included (in PDF format), so additional information about the recordings is readily available.

For any assistance in using the American Song database, please contact the Music Library.