At 70, Smithsonian Folkways Is An Antidote To Music Algorithms

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Smithsonian Folkways, An American Institution

By Bob Boilen, NPR Music

From the sounds of blues guitarist and singer Lead Belly to recordings of Southwestern Woodhouse Toads, Smithsonian Folkways has been capturing the sounds of global history for the past 70 years. These recordings are among 60,000 treasured tracks the label has in its library — and it promises they’ll never go out of print — from the labor songs of Woody Guthrie and children’s songs of Ella Jenkins to New Orleans hot jazz, songs of the civil rights movement, the Honk Horn music of Ghana and so much more.

The label was officially started on May Day 1948, so its current director and curator, Huib Schippers, joins us to look back and celebrate this National Treasure’s rich history, starting with its founder Moses Asch.

Below you’ll find the Smithsonian Folkways’ own honorary 70-year playlist: 70 recordings from their vast catalog. You can read more about their rich history through 70 Years, 70 Stories.