Mack the Knife is the English version of the song Mackie’s Lament , in German Die Moritat von Mackie Messer , written by Bertolt Brecht on music by Kurt Weill , for their musical Die Dreigroschenoper , in French L’Opera de quat ‘ under , whose premiere takes place in Berlin in 1928 at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm .

In the 1950s, several American artists, including Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin , took over the song, transforming it into a jazz standard .

The Opera de troisyous

moritat (of mori , mortal and tat , done) is a sort of medieval lament narrating dramatic events, sung by the minstrels . In The Threepenny Opera , the singer of the moritat, with his organ of Barbary , opens and closes the work with the story of the formidable Mackie Messer ( Mackie-le-Surineur in French, Mack the Knife in English) . The character is based on the highwayman Macheath of Beggar’s Opera by John Gay, itself inspired by a thief who really existed, Jack Sheppard . Brecht’s character is much more cruel and sinister, transformed into a modern anti-hero .

The piece opens with the singer of morality comparing Macheath to a shark and telling some of his robberies , murders , rapes and other crimes .

The song is added to the room shortly before its premiere in 1928. Harald Paulsen  (in) , creator of the role of Macheath, wanted a more thorough introduction to his character 1 .

Mack the Knife

The first English version of the song dates back to 1933, when The Threepenny Opera (English The Threepenny Opera ) is created to Broadway . The lyrics are signed by Gifford Cochran and Jerrold Krimsky . The piece is an oven and it is necessary to wait more than twenty years before it finds success: it is recreated in 1954, with words of Marc Blitzstein , and plays more than six years off-Broadway .

In 1956, Louis Armstrong took Mack the Knife in front of A single , with the words of Blitzstein.

During the recording, he spontaneously adds in the lyrics the name of Lotte Lenya , the widow of Weill, present in the studio. It was the star of the original version of 1928 but also of the American version of 1954. Most subsequent versions will resume this tribute.

In 1959, it was Bobby Darin’s turn to propose a jazz version of the song. The success is huge: the song reaches the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 and remains at the top of the rankings for nine weeks. Bobby Darin won two Grammy Awards : the recording of the year and the best new artist .

The version of Bobby Darin is the reference for the following covers and Frank Sinatra – who will take it again in 1984 and 1994 – will qualify it as a “definitive” version. It is classified e of the Top 100 of all time of Billboard magazine , and 251 th in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time .

The following year, Ella Fitzgerald gives her interpretation of the title, in concert in Berlin . Victim of a serious lapse of memory, she improvises lyrics and scat on a good part of the song. His version, on the album Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife , allows him to win the Grammy Award for the best pop singer .

Selective list of interpretations

  • Lotte Lenya ( Lotte Lenya Sings Berlin Theater Songs of Kurt Weill , 1955)
  • Louis Armstrong (1956)
  • Dick Hyman (1956)
  • Sonny Rollins ( Colossus Saxophone , 1956)
  • Jonah Jones ( Muted Jazz , February 1957)
  • Bing Crosby ( Bing with a Beat , 1957)
  • Bobby Darin (1959)
  • Bill Haley & His Comets ( Strictly Instrumental , 1959)
  • Kenny Dorham ( Quiet Kenny , 1959)
  • Anita O’Day ( Cool Heat , 1959)
  • Ella Fitzgerald ( Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife , 1963)
  • Eartha Kitt (single, 1963)
  • Oscar Peterson / Clark Terry ( Oscar Peterson + One Clark Terry , 1964)
  • Dave Van Ronk ( Dave Van Ronk and the Ragtime Jug Stompers , 1964, Live at Sir George Williams University , 1967, and Let No One Deceive You , 1992)
  • Ben Webster ( Stormy Weather , 1965)
  • The Doors ( Live In Stockholm , 1968)
  • Peggy Lee ( Live in London , 1977)
  • The Psychedelic Furs (B-side of the Pretty in Pink single , Here Came album The Psychedelic Furs: B Sides and The Lost Grooves , 2002 version of The Psychedelic Furs )
  • Frank Sinatra ( LA Is My Lady , 1984)
  • Sting ( Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill , 1985)
  • Ute Lemper (Ute Lemper Singt Kurt Weill, 1987)
  • Roger Daltrey (soundtrack of the movie Mack the Knife , 1990)
  • Kenny Garrett ( African Exchange Student , 1990)
  • The Young Gods ( Play Kurt Weill , 1991)
  • Marianne Faithfull ( 20th Century Blues , 1992)
  • Lyle Lovett (soundtrack of the movie Quiz Show , 1994)
  • Frank Sinatra with Jimmy Buffett ( Duets II , 1994)
  • Nick Cave ( September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill , 1995)
  • Brian Setzer ( Vavoom ! , 2000)
  • Jimmie Dale Gilmore , 2000 (featured in the soundtrack of Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet in 2009)
  • Robbie Williams ( Swing When You’re Winning , 2001)
  • Michael Bublé ( Come Fly With Me , 2004)
  • Westlife ( Allow us to be frank , 2004)

References

  1. ↑ ( in ) Brecht-Liederbuch , Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, ( ISBN  3-518-37716-7 ) , p.  388