Rare artist interviews now streaming at Library of Congress site

Veteran record executive Joe Smith with discs containing hundreds of hours of interviews he conducted in the 1980s and has donated to the Library of Congress.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles times)

Want to hear Mick Jagger talk about the Beatles? Tony Bennett laud the genius of Louis Armstrong? B.B. King express his blues over the future of the blues?

Audio interviews with those and dozens more of the biggest names in rock, pop, jazz, blues, country and R&B; are now streaming free at the Library of Congress website, opening access to hundreds of hours of recordings collected by veteran music industry executive Joe Smith.

As reported in June, Smith donated his collection of audio interviews with many of the most celebrated figures in 20th century pop music. Now the Library of Congress has digitized them and is streaming them to the public.


Smith sat down one-on-one with musicians in the 1980s to get their anecdotes about their lives in music for his 1988 book, “Off the Record.” But he was able to use only a fraction of their conversations in that volume.

He decided to donate the original audiotapes to the Library of Congress as a resource for music fans, scholars, journalists and others interested in the history of pop music as told by the participants.

“The Joe Smith Collection is an invaluable addition to the library’s comprehensive collection of recorded sound,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in announcing Smith’s donation. “These frank and poignant oral histories of many of the nation’s musical icons give us unique insights into them as artists, entertainers and human beings.”

Here’s part of what Jagger had to say about the Fab Four: “Both Keith [Richards] and Brian [Jones] were very much influenced by the Beatles –- everyone was at that point. I must say I don’t think I was as much as they were. One envied their success, but I never really liked their music as much.”

Bennett on Satchmo: “He invented jazz. He invented the whole art of popular music. He actually invented it. … He was the fountainhead. There isn’t any note or anything in popular music that’s ever been done that Louis Armstrong didn’t do before anybody else. He did everything.”

And King on the future of the blues: “I feel it’s dying as we’ve known it. But there will continuously be blues as long as there are people on the planet, because people gonna continuously have problems.”


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