"Music is Just Dreaming in Sound" — Interviews With Important Popular Music Performers of the Last 50 Years
Joe Smith’s Recorded Interviews with Music Icons Featured on Library of Congress' Website
Photograph: Linda Ronstadt*
In 1988, John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono gave a candid interview to record-label president Joe Smith about the Beatles’ split: "For John, it was a divorce. I think he was feeling very good about it, as if a big weight was off him." Ono was among more than 200 celebrated performers, producers and industry leaders whose words Smith captured on audiotape more than 25 years ago in an effort to document the oral history of popular music.
In June 2012, Smith donated the collection of recordings to the Library of Congress, a tremendous assembly of primary-source oral histories covering perhaps the most important 50 years of popular music, nationally and internationally. The Library has made a series of these revealing, unedited recordings available for listening free to the public on its website at www.loc.gov/rr/record/joesmith/. The first group of recordings posted on the site will consist of 25 interviews. These include interviews with Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Bo Diddley and Linda Rondstadt. More recordings in the Smith collection will be added to the site over time.
Also coming soon is Smith’s own reflective interview, in which he shares rare and intimate details about his decades-long career. He candidly talks about the famous people in his life, including an accusation against him and his business partner, Frank Sinatra.
All types of popular music are represented in the collection — from rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, rhythm & blues and pop to big-band, heavy metal, folk and country-western. The list of noted artists and executives is a veritable who’s who in the music industry. Among them are Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Little Richard, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Elton John, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Sting, Tony Bennett, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Dick Clark, Tina Turner, Tom Jones, B. B. King, Quincy Jones, David Geffen, Mickey Hart, Harry Belafonte and many others.
Smith’s 40-year career in the industry gave him unique entrée and for about a two-year period, he interviewed the biggest names in music. In 1988, he published excerpts from his interviews in the groundbreaking book Off the Record.
"One of the great things about the interviews is how relaxed many of them are," said Matt Barton, the Library’s recorded sound curator. "They’re not on camera and they’re talking to someone who’s very much a colleague and a peer, if not a musical artist. The tone is very different and the camera isn’t on them."
Visitors to the Library’s website will get a rare glimpse of music’s biggest stars in unguarded moments. Smith records them joking, eating, drinking and candidly discussing their lives, careers and contemporaries. While chain-smoking, Ono talks about the breakup of The Beatles; Mick Jagger consumes toast and tea while discussing the Stones’ outlaw reputation; Paul McCartney also speaks frankly about The Beatles’ walk on the wild side; and Tony Bennett talks about the legacy of two music greats over dinner.
*" By the end of 1978, Ronstadt had solidified her role as one of rock and pop's most successful solo female acts, and owing to her consistent platinum album success, and her ability as the first-ever woman to sell out concerts in arenas and stadiums hosting tens of thousands of fans,Ronstadt became the "highest paid woman in rock". She had six platinum certified albums, three of which went to No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, and numerous charted Pop singles. In 1978 alone, she made over $12 million (equivalent to $38,000,000 in today's dollars) and in the same year her albums sales were reported to be 17 million — grossing over $60 million (equivalent to a gross of over $170,000,000, in today's dollars)." Wikipedia
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