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Sylvester’s ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ added to National Recording Registry

Sylvester‘s gay disco anthem  “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” has been recognized as a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” American recording and added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

Sylvester’s “urgent falsetto reflected his childhood background in both African-American gospel music and his work as a drag performer in San Francisco,” the National Recording Registry said in a statement.

“Sylvester’s highly personal and emotional performance gave it gravitas while also pushing gender-bending (which Sylvester reveled in) further into the musical mainstream.”

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National Recording Registry

This year’s theme is American change makers. The inductees span 100 years — from the earliest known recordings of Yiddish songs, which date to 1901, to Jay-Z’s seminal album “The Blueprint,” which was released Sept. 11, 2001.

The National Recording Registry honors the music that enriches our souls, the voices that tell our stories and the sounds that mirror our lives,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement last week when they latest inductees were announced.

Each year, the National Recording Registry adds 25 American recordings that are a minimum 10 years old to its list.

The selection process begins with public input followed by recommendations from the board and ends with Hayden making the final decision.

The registry, which includes 525 recordings, traces “America’s history through recorded sound,” Hayden said.

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The recordings

Sam & Dave’s 1967 single “Soul Man” was inspired by the 12th Street riot, a bloody set of confrontations in 1967 between the Detroit Police Department and many of the city’s black residents. Isaac Hayes, who co-wrote “Soul Man” with Dave Porter, has said it was meant as a black pride anthem.

“La Bamba” is a 1958 Mexican folk song that Ritchie Valens transformed into one of the earliest non-English-language rock-and-roll tunes.

Nina Simone called her 1964 bluntly anti-racist anthem “Mississippi Goddam” her “first civil rights song.”

The song was a direct response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing deaths of four girls at a church in Birmingham, Alabama. It was immediately banned in several Southern states.

“Schoolhouse Rock!: The Box Set” from 1996 includes various songs from the children’s educational program. The cartoon shorts, which explored topics including civics and mathematics, originally aired from 1973 to 1985.

Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 debut solo album, “She’s So Unusual,” featured the monster hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which she has described as a covert feminist anthem.

Here’s the full list:

  • Yiddish Cylinders from the Standard Phonograph Company of New York and the Thomas Lambert Company (c. 1901-1905)
  • “Memphis Blues” (single), Victor Military Band (1914)
  • Melville Jacobs Collection of Native Americans of the American Northwest (1929-1939)
  • “Minnie the Moocher” (single), Cab Calloway (1931)
  • “Bach Six Cello Suites” (album), Pablo Casals (c. 1939)
  • “They Look Like Men of War” (single), Deep River Boys (1941)
  • “Gunsmoke” — Episode: “The Cabin” (Dec. 27, 1952)
  • Ruth Draper: Complete recorded monologues, Ruth Draper (1954-1956)
  • “La Bamba” (single), Ritchie Valens (1958)
  • “Long Black Veil” (single), Lefty Frizzell (1959)
  • “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Vol. 1: The Early Years” (album), Stan Freberg (1961)
  • “GO” (album), Dexter Gordon (1962)
  • “War Requiem” (album), Benjamin Britten (1963)
  • “Mississippi Goddam”(single), Nina Simone (1964)
  • “Soul Man” (single), Sam & Dave (1967)
  • “Hair” (original Broadway cast recording) (1968)
  • Speech on the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy (April 4, 1968)
  • “Sweet Caroline” (single), Neil Diamond (1969)
  • “Superfly” (album), Curtis Mayfield (1972)
  • “Ola Belle Reed” (album), Ola Belle Reed (1973)
  • “September” (single), Earth, Wind & Fire (1978)
  • “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” (single), Sylvester (1978)
  • “She’s So Unusual” (album), Cyndi Lauper (1983)
  • “Schoolhouse Rock!: The Box Set” (1996)
  • “The Blueprint” (album), Jay-Z (2001)

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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