White House Comes with Free Record Collection

Written by January 28th, 2009 at 1:20 pm

As President Obama takes up residence in his new house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he will find a house-warming gift from the RIAA. In 1973, the trade group donated over 2,000 LPs to then-President Nixon to complement the collection of books already housed in the White House Library. Records by artists like Pat Boone, the Carpenters, and John Denver comprised this initial donation. In 1979, producer John Hammond, Boston music critic Bob Blumenthal, and Rolling Stone reviews editor at the time, Paul Nelson, led a commission to update the record collection for President Carter. As Blumenthal said, “They needed to redress some of the oversights that might have taken place the first time around.”

On January 14, 1981, seven days before President Reagan took office, the commission donated the updated collection to the White House. The additions, designed to capture the “diversity in what was going on in popular music” included albums by Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Kinks, David Bowie, Santana, Neil Young, Talking Heads, Isaac Hayes, Elton John, The Cars and Barry Manilow. In addition, Blood on the Tracks and Born to Run, now identified as personal favorites of President Obama, were also included in the revised collection. Originally placed near the third-floor listening room, the Reagan administration later moved the LPs to the basement, possibly because of Nancy Reagan’s reported distaste for the musical selections.

Asked about the collection, a spokesperson for President Obama said that it is too early to comment on whether the new administration would revive the library.


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