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Recorded Sound Section--Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division



arrow graphicMusic Recordings
Early Recording Stars
Miscellaneous Music Collections
Opera and Classical Music
Library of Congress Concerts
Drama and Literature Recordings
The Spoken Word




Music Recordings
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Album jackets.
Jane Ira Bloom, Modern Drama (1987, Columbia FC 40755), courtesy of Columbia Records; Are You Ready for Phyllis Diller? (1962, Verve V-15031); International Sweethearts of Rhythm (1984, Rosetta Records RR 1302), courtesy of Rosetta Records; and Buffy Sainte-Marie, Native North American Child: An Odyssey (1974, Vanguard VSD-79340) and Big Mama Thornton: Mama's Pride (1975, Vanguard VPC 40001), both courtesy of Vanguard Records, a Welk Music Group Company.
Recorded Sound Reference Center, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

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Women performers have been recorded since the earliest days of radio broadcasting and sound recording. The breadth of the division's music recordings is so extensive, encompassing a century of radio broadcasting and sound recording and including almost all musical genres, that it is possible to give only a few examples of American women performers represented in the collections. The division's particular strengths are in operatic recordings, chamber music, and American music of all types—classical, popular, jazz, blues, folk, country, and gospel.

Researching Music Recordings

Women and women's issues have long been the subject of musical works. It is possible to unearth specific songs that deal with women, their history, and their culture, but it takes some time and planning. As usual, it is best to start with specific performers, composers, song titles, or record labels, but that is not always necessary. Recordings of the feminist anthem “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy (b. 1941) are easy to find, but it is more difficult to find songs about specific topics, such as domestic violence or divorce. Several reference books that may help in finding songs of interest include discographies, where starting with a name or song title is helpful

  • Blues & Gospel Records, 1890-1943 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997; ML156.4.B6 D59 1997) lists titles with a distinctively African American musical style recorded between the years 1890 and 1943. It is arranged alphabetically by performer or group, and under each performer is a chronological list of his or her performances up until 1943. An index to song titles is included. The song “Mama Whip, Mama Spank, If Daddy Don't Come Home” by Lucille Hegamin (1894-1970) (Arto 9058) can be found under either song title or Hegamin.
  • The Green Book of Songs by Subject: The Thematic Guide to Popular Music by Jeff Green (Nashville, Tenn.: Professional Desk References, 1995; ML156.4.P6 G73 1994) is one of the few books that provides topical access to songs. Organized alphabetically by subject category, within which appropriate song titles with the artists who performed them are listed, it concentrates on popular subjects and emphasizes singles and album tracks released by American companies from 1900 to 1994. It includes the category “Women: General,” with see also references from “Mothers” and “Women's Names” and see references from “Girls” and “Ladies.” The “Women's Names” category begins with Abigail Beecher and ends with “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” Other relevant categories include “Children,” “Divorce,” “Marriage,” “Fight” (including domestic violence), “Feminism,” “Prostitutes,” “Homosexuality” (including lesbianism), and “Cowboys” (including cowgirls).
  • Phonolog (not cataloged but available in the reference center) is a loose-leaf source book that lists recorded pop and classical music releases that are currently available. It has an alphabetically arranged section of pop song titles, including composer and artist names. The Library of Congress is unusual in holding a complete run of Phonolog from 1948 to the present.

Song titles are keyword searchable in both the LC online catalog in SONIC. You also can perform a more precise search by addressing your query to the exact area in the bibliographic record that contains song titles, such as “title field,” “contents note,” or “name/title field.”

Several Library of Congress subject headings can be used to find music by or for women. “Feminist music” applies to music about feminism and women's rights. The heading “Women's music” is used for musical works composed, performed, and produced by and for women and often associated with the lesbian feminist movement in the United States. Musical works about women are entered under “Women-Songs and music.” To find collections of musical works composed by women search under “Music by women composers” and “Music by African American women composers.”

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