Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Day That The Music Died

In 2008, a fire raged on the property owned by Universal Studios and within hours of the new breaking, films buffs began to shed a tear. CNN inaccurately reported that the studio masters for television's I Love Lucy were among the victims, but since that was not a program owned by Universal, it seemed unlikely. As fast as the flames spread, sparks flew with wild theories among film buffs of what movies went up in smoke. Celluloid was flammable, for sure, but there was no shortage of rumors as to which movies or television programs went up in flames. Some claimed "the only existing masters" went up in smoke. Other people reported "I know it for a fact..." 

Fires are inevitable, a reminder that not everything physical is immune to the ravages of time and mother nature. If anything, the occasional fire that breaks out at any archive, including University Libraries, should serve as a reminder that everything needs to be digitized and (just as important) an off-site backup to ensure preservation.

In June 2019, a decade after the fire broke out and destroyed the building housing unknown materials, the truth went public as a result of journalist Jody Rosen, in her report published in The New York Times. The blazing inferno was responsible for the destruction of tens of thousands of music recordings.

The list of destroyed single and album masters takes in titles by dozens of legendary artists, a genre-spanning who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music. It includes recordings by Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Clara Ward, Sammy Davis Jr., Les Paul, Fats Domino, Big Mama Thornton, Burl Ives, the Weavers, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bobby (Blue) Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N’ Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots.

The link to The New York Times is provided below. I am posting this solely to help curb the myths that circulate regarding what movies were "supposedly" destroyed in the fire.