♫ Mack The Knife ♫

I’ve only played this once before, mid-2019, and it’s a song that deserves another run, plus I learned some things from readers last time ’round that I have added this time, such as two versions, one by Ella Fitzgerald and one by Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra!

Now, turns out this song has an origin that I was completely unaware of until I first researched it.  It was originally written in 1928 by German composers Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht for a play The Threepenny Opera.  I found out from Janet G (aka Tidalscribe) that Weill was later exiled from Germany and his music was labeled ‘degenerate’ by none other than Adolf Hitler!

My favourite version is Louis Armstrong’s that was released in 1956, perhaps only because I became a fan of Louis’ around the time I learned to walk, or perhaps because I am old and set in my ways … once somebody does a song, does it well, then why does every other Tom, Dick and Harry need to try to do it better?  However, for many, the Bobby Darin version is the only one worth hearing, so … I offer that one, too.  And then last time when I played it, Jack Collier said he preferred the Sinatra version, and Emily (aka Zombie Flamingos) mentioned that her fave was the Ella Fitzgerald one!  You can’t go wrong with any of those artists, so I’ll put all four here and you can listen to all, or pick a favourite!

Mack the Knife
Louis Armstrong … Bobby Darin

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it, ah, out of sight
Ya know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, oh, wears old MacHeath, babe
So there’s never, never a trace of red

Now on the sidewalk, huh, huh, whoo sunny morning, un huh
Lies a body just oozin’ life, eek
And someone’s sneakin’ ’round the corner
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

There’s a tugboat, huh, huh, down by the river don’tcha know
Where a cement bag’s just a’drooppin’ on down
Oh, that cement is for, just for the weight, dear
Five’ll get ya ten old Macky’s back in town
Now d’ja hear ’bout Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe
After drawin’ out all his hard-earned cash
And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor
Could it be our boy’s done somethin’ rash?

Now Jenny Diver, ho, ho, yeah, Sukey Tawdry
Ooh, Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Oh, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town

I said Jenny Diver, whoa, Sukey Tawdry
Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town
Look out, old Macky’s back

Songwriters: Kurt Weill / Bertolt Brecht / Marc Blitzstein
Mack the Knife lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

32 thoughts on “♫ Mack The Knife ♫

    • Ah yes … I remembered that post once I re-visited it tonight! Yes, it has been covered by many here … more than even I knew! I couldn’t picture it as a German song until I listened to a couple of different versions in German. Thanks, Don!

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  1. It’s always intrigued me as a song. It is a jazz standard, and rather jaunty, but the words are so brutal. For me these versions don’t quite get the menace of the song, so I went hunting. Here is a clip from the film of the “Threepenny Opera”, sung in German, but with subtitles. The relentless hand organ adds to it I think. I will look up Clive’s suggestion of Marianne Faithful.

    BTW, Mack the Knife is one of my Mum’s favourite songs, which surprises me as she is such a gentle soul!

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    • And now it is you who have educated me! I always thought that Sting was a band! I actually enjoyed listening to this one, though of course I couldn’t understand a word he sang! Thank you, Michael!

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      • Lol – Me too, Jill! Dont worry! I am knowing it also only by researching on the Threepennyopera, some years ago. 😉 Its famous how he pronounced the german words, even my pronouncing of English is horrible. 🙂 xx

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        • I had no idea if he was pronouncing them correctly or not … why, he could have been speaking Finnish or Japanese and I wouldn’t have known the difference! I know Spanish and English, and 3 phrases in French, and that’s the sum total of my language abilities! xx

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          • Thats great, Jill! Your mothers language is the best as always. The Czech schools had stopped teaching German. Now they are teaching English. 😉 xx It seems Germany – this special community of former expelled – and Czechia never will become best friends.

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              • We owe this to the annexation of formerly German territories by the CSSR. The people resettled from there have now been sitting in our state parliaments and in the German Bundestag for four generations. They want their homeland back, the so-called “Sudetenland”. Since this will never happen, one wants to undermine the Czech Republic with a total of only 12 million inhabitants (Germany has 83 million inhabitants) again and again via the EU. From the coming school year, the Czech language will also be taught in schools in Munich, for the first time. Unfortunately too late. xx


  2. It’s been my favorite song since I got into politics. ; -.) But I didn’t know that Louis Armstrong had also interpreted and sung the song. The versions differ in some countries, only in one line. I think the most important one:

    There are some who are in darkness
    And the others are in light
    And you see the ones in brightness
    Those in darkness drop from sight.
    As you know for sure, its from the Threepennyopera (Bertold Brecht, 1928). 😉

    We should find good lyrics, for Moscow Mitch. :-)) xx Michael

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    • I’m so glad you knew and liked this one! Louis Armstrong’s version was, I think, the first one I ever heard, and being a fan of his, it’s always been my favourite, but admittedly the others were good also. Heh heh … lyrics for Moscow Mitch, eh? Let me think on that one … shouldn’t be too hard! xx

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      • Jill, when I see Bobby Darin in your piece, this is the kind of song he sings so well, unlike the one he hit it big with “Splish splash.” If you get a chance, one of his good songs that is a classic is “Beyond the sea.” Keith

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        • Oh yes, I LOVE “Beyond the Sea”!!! Thanks for reminding me of that one. And I fully agree with you about “Splish Splash” … you won’t likely see that one played here!


  3. I’ve never been a jazz fan, so I’m not really fussed about any of these. For me, the best version I’ve heard of this is by Marianne Faithfull, who gave it the full treatment of sleaze in keeping with the way Brecht and Weill wrote it. It’s a live recording and sounds like it was recorded in a smoke-filled night club 😊

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  4. Thanks for the mention Jill. You have set me thinking now and I must look up German versions. That period in pre war Germany sound so fascinating, smoky dark nightclubs withe great music. Of your selection I think I like Ella best.

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