Music mogul donates audio interviews to US library

Associated Press Modified: June 18, 2012 at 1:30 pm •  Published: June 18, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — A retired music executive will donate more than 200 audio interviews with popular singers including Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Paul McCartney and others to the Library of Congress, officials announced Monday.

The gift includes interviews that Joe Smith recorded over two years while president of Capitol Records/EMI. He compiled the candid oral histories for his book, "Off the Record," published in 1988. The collection includes interviews with dozens of big names, including Barbra Streisand, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner and others.

Now the recordings have been digitized by the world's largest library and will be available to researchers at its reading room on Capitol Hill. Some will be streamed on the library's website later this year to provide wider access.

Librarian of Congress James Billington said Smith is providing an intimate look into the lives of some of the great musicians.

"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," Billington said in announcing the gift.

The 84-year-old Smith said he wanted to preserve part of the nation's cultural history. The 238 hours of interviews stretch from the Big Band era with Artie Shaw and Woody Herman to U2's Bono.

"I was an insider," Smith said in an interview. "I could get to Mick Jagger when somebody from the press could not, and I could get to Barbra Streisand when most people could not get to her."

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