Mack the Knife  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
1920s Berlin

"Mack the Knife" or "The Ballad of Mack the Knife", originally "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", is a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or, as it is known in English, The Threepenny Opera. It premiered in Berlin in 1928 at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. The song has become a popular standard recorded by many artists, including a US number one hit for Bobby Darin.

Popular song

Mack the Knife was introduced to the United States hit parade by Louis Armstrong in 1954, but the song is most closely associated with Bobby Darin, who recorded his version at Fulton Studios on West 40th Street, New York City, on December 19, 1958 (with Tom Dowd engineering the recording). In 1959 Darin's version reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100 and number six on the Black Singles chart, and earned him a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Dick Clark had advised Darin not to record the song because of the perception that, having come from an opera, it wouldn't appeal to the rock & roll audience. To this day, Clark recounts the story with good humor. Frank Sinatra, who recorded the song with Jimmy Buffett, called Darin's the "definitive" version. On Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, pop mogul Simon Cowell named "Mack the Knife" the best song ever written. In 2003, the Darin version was ranked #251 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

Darin's version also hit #3 on Billboard's All Time Top 100.

Brecht's original German language version was appropriated for a series of humorous and surreal blackout skits by television pioneer Ernie Kovacs, showing, between skits, the vibrating soundtrack line.

Ella Fitzgerald made a famous live recording in 1960 (released on Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife) in which, after forgetting the lyrics after the first verse, she successfully improvised new lyrics in a performance that earned her a Grammy. Robbie Williams also recorded the song on his 2001 album Swing When You're Winning. Other notable versions of "Mack the Knife" include performances by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Tony Bennett, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave, Emma Pask and James Morrison, Brian Setzer, Westlife, Merrill Osmond, Kenny Garrett, Kevin Spacey, and Michael Bublé. Swiss band The Young Gods radically reworked the song and gave it industrial flavour, while jazz legend Sonny Rollins recorded an instrumental version entitled simply "Moritat" in 1956. A 1959 instrumental performance by Bill Haley & His Comets was the final song the group recorded for Decca Records. Tito Puente has also recorded an instrumental version. Salsa musician Rubén Blades recorded an homage entitled "Pedro Navaja" and Spanish singer Miguel Rios made a Big Band version called Mackie el navaja (Mack the Knife) in 1998. Dj Tony Touch also recorded a version called "Tony Navaja" along with Rubén Blades. Brazilian composer Chico Buarque, in his adaptation of the Threepenny Opera (Ópera do Malandro), made two versions called "A Volta do Malandro" and "O Malandro No. 2", with lyrics in Portuguese.

The song has been put to many other uses. American parodists the Capitol Steps used the tune for their song "Pack the Knife" in their 2002 album When Bush Comes to Shove. In the mid-1980s, fast food giant McDonald's introduced "Mac Tonight", a character whose signature song was based upon "Mack the Knife"; it has been said Darin's estate (notably his son Dodd) did not approve of the reworking. A Halloween parody, titled "Drac the Knife", was performed by Gene Moss.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mack the Knife" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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