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NYT: Universal fire destroyed masters of more than 500K titles

Posted at 2:29 PM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 15:29:55-04

Back in 2008, there was a fire at Universal Studios Hollywood.

At the time, officials said only copies of recordings were destroyed.

But today, the New York Times Magazine posts a story that reveals a lot more was lost.

According to the article, almost all of the master recordings stored in the building were destroyed. A master is a one-of-a-kind original recording of a piece of music, the magazine reports. It’s the source from which other vinyl records, CDs, MP3s and all other recordings are made.

The magazine has obtained a 2009 confidential report estimating that about 500,000 song titles were lost, including: masters of recordings by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland.

The magazine reports that the fire probably also claimed some of Chuck Berry’s greatest recordings, produced for Chess Records, as well as the masters of some of Aretha Franklin’s first appearances on record.  Almost of all of Buddy Holly’s masters were lost, as were most of John Coltrane’s masters in the Impulse Records collection. The fire also claimed numerous hit singles, likely including Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock,” Etta James’s “At Last” and the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.”

To read the NYT Magazine’s complete story, click here.